The Bible

Donne's Biblical Influences

There are several levels in literary criticism. The first - and most superficial - level examines the work in search of sounds and images that might contribute to the overall meaning of the piece. This type of analysis is an excellent starting point, but if one seeks to understand the full meaning of the piece, he or she must take into account the author's life and the circumstances in which the work was composed. Familiarity with the author's background and culture can help the critic draw out the full implications contained within the work. The general consensus on "Holy Sonnets #14" is that Donne's poem is both highly original and overtly sexual; in the poem, the traditional view holds, the narrator hopes to be raped by God so that he may achieve salvation. According to this perspective, all of the images in the poem are explicit allusions to rape. While the rape imagery is certainly present, it serves only as a vehicle for Donne to evoke biblical allusions that, once understood, inform readers as to the true meaning of the work. Without comprehending the biblical foundation of the poem, the reader cannot achieve a proper understanding of Donne's deep religiosity.

The first instruction of the poem,...

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