John Donne: Poems

“A Hymn to God the Father”: John Donne’s Rediscovery of Faith

In his poem “A Hymn to God the Father,” John Donne addresses God directly through a series of questions intended to reaffirm his faith. He prays for forgiveness for his transgressions in an inquisitive and almost intimate tone; it seems that he is searching for reassurance about his connection with God. The evolution of his inner conflict is emphasized by the increasing gravity of his sins, from the mildest in the first stanza to the most severe in the third stanza. It is only after he has confronted all of his sins that he is finally able to reestablish his faith.

The order of the sins for which Donne asks to be forgiven is significant to the progression of the poem. In the first stanza, he addresses the sins inherent to all mankind by using a Biblical allusion to Adam and Eve. Donne refers to it as “that sin where I begun, / Which is my sin, though it were done before?” (Lines 1-2). By beginning his poem with the sins for which he is least responsible, Donne establishes a clear pattern of transition through each stanza to mirror his struggle with his faith; that pattern is augmented by the recurring structure that begins in the first stanza.

The first two stanzas are nearly identical in structure: both begin with the line, “...

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