Category Archives: John Donne

Bethlehem and Golgotha

The opening words from John Donne’s Christmas sermon delivered on December 25, 1626:

The whole life of Christ was a continual Passion; others die Martyrs, but Christ was born a Martyr. … His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday, are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.

Holy Sonnet XIV

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
Labour to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely’I love you,’and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

—John Donne, The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne (The Modern Library, 1952) p. 252.

“The sonnet does not build toward union with God, either bodily or spiritually. Instead, it builds toward personal regeneration. The demands to be taken, conquered, imprisoned, enthralled, and ravished are ultimately expressions of the fundamental desire that pulsates throughout these poems as a whole” [Ramie Targoff, John Donne: Body and Soul (University of Chicago, 2009) p. 123].

Scripture’s Majesty and Simplicity

“O, what words but thine, can expresse the inexpressible texture, and composition of thy word; in which, to one man, that argument that binds his faith to beleeve that to bee the Word of God, is the reverent simplicity of the Word, and to another, the majesty of the Word; and in which two men, equally pious, may meet, and one wonder, that all should not understand it, and the other, as much, that any man should.”

John Donne (1572–1631), The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne (The Modern Library, 1952) p. 446.

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