John Donne: Poems

"Except You Ravish Me": An Explication of John Donne's Holy Sonnet XIV College

Many prayers consist of asking God for peace, protection, or forgiveness. John Donne, however, in his Holy Sonnet XIV, has created a strikingly different kind of prayer. In the very first line, the speaker says to God, “Batter my heart.” The poem that follows is a plea for God to move forcibly, and it paints a picture that starkly contrasts the typical pastoral images of God. With atypical form, powerful metaphors, and alluring paradoxes, Donne’s poem is truly unique and continues to impact the hearts’ of Donne’s readers today.

Donne’s sonnet is intriguing even in its structure. Sonnets are fourteen lines and can either be divided into the Italian or English style. In the Italian style, the poem is composed of an octave followed by a sestet. In the English style, the sonnet is divided into three quatrains and ends with a concluding couplet. Donne is a British writer, so we might assume his sonnet would follow the English style. There are periods after lines four and eight, which may indicate that these are two separate quatrains. The first quatrain describes the way God acts and the way the speaker desires God to act. The second discusses the speaker’s captivity to sin. However, line nine begins with “yet.” This transitional...

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