Batter My Heart Three-Personed God
This plea, however, is not a cry for God’s mercy, but instead is a request for a brutal and almost violent overtaking by the Holy Spirit. Donne is aware that he needs God’s deliverance from the clutches of Satan. This poem is an expression of a struggling sinner, a desperate cry seeking for salvation power by extreme measures. It is apparent that Donne is in the midst of a struggle with good and evil, and begins with a plea to God to enter his heart by any means necessary and rid him of the evil that has taken over. Donne uses bold imagery throughout the poem as a way of showing his utter desperation.
He is a man completely aware of his need for God and is crying out for help. As we take a look closer at the first four lines of this poem, it seems that Donne may understand that in order to be “made new,” he feels that God needs to break him down completely; and in order to rise up, he needs God to knock him over.
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Donne is most aware of his situation and wants God to not only be in his life, but he wants to be overthrown and shaped into whatever God wants him to be. He is ready to give his soul up to God to be completely and be thoroughly cleansed by God. Corinthians 7:1 states, “…dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit…” The author is seeking such a cleansing from his Master, a cleansing from all of his transgressions and past sins. The author expressed a profound respect tinged with awe for God, the ability to express in such powerful words struck a chord within my heart. “Dearly, I love you”, and “Take me to you” are words that express such an intense longing to be near one’s savior. With a Godly fear and deep reverence, the author cries to be captivated, to be wrapped up in Love’s embrace.
Knowing that he is simply a man, and is completely fallible, he writes this poem with a heart of humility. Donne is a man knowing that he cannot live without God’s saving power and humbly seeks it. As Proverbs 15:33 points out, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility. ” Though this poem is full of strong imagery with a bold imperative almost demanding that God come to his need, we still hear an undertone of humility as he knows he is not to be free lest God breathe, shine and seek to mend his heart.
The author uses the remarkable simile, “like an usurp town”, to describe his sinful condition of slavery to sin. It also describes how his conscience has been completely overwhelmed by Satan and hence cannot set him free. Humbly, he seeks salvation by asking the Triune God to “batter” the gates of the captive town (his heart), release him from the clutches of Satan, and save his soul. In this poem, we hear a desperate admonishing to God to completely smash him and then rebuild his life anew all over again. The poem ends with “Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, / Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. This is the narrator’s final plea for God to instill into him strength in his weakness and to completely take him over. It can also be seen as though the author wants God to send him a sign, to do something drastic, that will make known God’s presence known to him in a highly meaningful way. As a recap of the poem, we find a humbled man asking God to batter or beat him severely. He continues to ask God to, “breathe, shine, and seek to mend… ” him. The definition of mend is to “repair”. It appears as if Donne wants God to beat him, and then repair him. This poem allows me to imagine something greater than human logic. That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new”. This metaphorically and allegorically allows me to imagine an abandoned house. In order to build a better house, one must tear down the old house and reconstruct a new one. So the author has come to the conclusion that the only way for him to be more holy is to allow God to destroy him completely and then build him up again. “Reason, Your viceroy in me, me should defend, but is captived, and proves weak or untrue”. Here, he is using viceroy as a metonymy for the Holy Spirit.
He is saying, metaphorically, that he should defend the Spirit inside of him, yet he fails often and makes it look untrue. Although, despite all of his mistakes, he claims his love for God, “Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain… ” He finally finishes the poem with, “Take me to you, imprison me, for I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste, except you ravish me”. The definition for ravish is, “to seize and carry off by force; rape. Here, we find that not only will he allow God to imprison him, but rape him. This is a conceit, a metonymy, and even a paradox.
He is subscribing an attribute of rape to God which is non-traditional of the Christian faith. Donne is seeking to metaphorically define God’s power over man. This is not literal rape, but simply spiritual. I find a great deal of beauty in this poem, because as Psalm 51:17 says, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise”. I believe that Donne has an allegoric meaning behind this poem; he believes that complete liberty, peace, and joy come through the awareness of one’s sinful nature, a reverence and total submission to God, and humility of heart.