The Holy Paradox in Donne's Batter My Heart Essays

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The Holy Paradox in Donne's Batter My Heart

The great paradox of the Christian faith lies in the condition that in order to be truly free, the soul must first be rescued from the bondage of sin, then recaptured and completely conquered by God. One of the most profound expressions of this paradox is to be found in John Donne' poem, "Batter My Heart" (Meyer 882). Donne expresses this spiritual transformation in intensely passionate language, using rhythm, figures of speech, and sounds to convey this theme.

The poem opens with a bang as the speaker addresses God as "three-personed God" (1), hence the Christian God, with a desperate demand. The opening line uses iambic pentameter meter with a rhythm that suggests the sound of
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The paradox is restated with another rushing enjambment ending, "and bend" as the speaker expects to "rise and stand" after being "o'erthrow[n]" by God (3). Here is the paradox: the soul must be thrown down in order to stand up, The line ends with the first end rhyme, "bend," to rhyme with "mend" (1) and "end" (6). These are one-syllable masculine rhymes that end the lines with a masculine stressed beat. This rhyme and meter accents the speaker urging God to act in an aggressive masculine way. The speaker realizes that God must strike him down and take full control of his life in order for him to be transformed into the Christian he wants to become.

Hurrying forward, the speaker takes the command further by saying "... and bend/ Your force, to break, blow, bum, and make me new" (3-4). Here the rhythm of line two is repeated, but with important changes in the verbs, as God's heavier hand is invoked with violent one-syllable verbs and alliteration: bend, break, blow, and burn. These verbs suggest a refiner's work, such as a blacksmith's or jeweler's, who would work in metals. This alludes to a simile used in the Bible, as God is described in Malachi 3:2: "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like

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