Batter My Heart, Three-Personned God

The following sonnet by John Donne is one of my favorite poems. He portrayed mankind as coming to God kicking and screaming, coming to Him only after persistent and loving “battering” of our hearts. This, he argued, is because we are by nature “like an usurp’d town, to another due” and that steadfast loyalty has to be broken through. He also notes the limitations of reason in this process. We often try to think our way to God, believing with a little syllogism we can reason our way into the “bosom of Abraham”. But Donne laments, “Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, but is captive, and proves week or untrue.” And I have a hunch that Donne had in mind those of us who have been “Christianized” by our culture; or “enculturated” into our faith.

HOLY SONNETS.

XIV.

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

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