John Donne (1572-1631)

Holy Sonnet XIV:  

Batter My Heart, Three-Person'd God

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, blow, 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 dearley'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.


5. To ursurp something is to take over something that does not belong to you.  A coup d'etat, for example, is an instance of usurpation:  a military officer deposes the legally constituted government, and assumes control of the powers of state.

7.  A viceroy is an official appointed by the king (Fr. roi) to rule in his stead, on his behalf.  Such officials were especially necessary to the governance of remote colonies in the eras before rapid communication.

9.  would be loved faine:  "Fain" is a now archaic intensifier that meant "very much like to."  To say "I would fain be your friend" meant "I would very much like to be your friend" or "I would love to be your friend."  Here it appears in an inversion of ordinary word order.

13. enthrall:  to enslave.  (A "thrall" is a slave.)  The modern meaning -- to fascinate -- derives from this idea of "reducing to subjection."  (Compare the history of meanings attaching to "charming" and "enchanting."  Similarly with "ravishing.")

14. chast:  chaste.  The concept combines the concepts of being intact (whole, unbroken, sound) and pure (undefiled).

14.  ravish:  This word derives originally from Latin rapere -- to seize and carry away by violence, to snatch by force.  Hence, eventually, the ideas of rape and rapture.


(1)  If a petition is to have prospects of being granted, typically certain conditions have to be met. 

(2)  Paraphrase the simile elaborated in lines 5-8.

Do you recognize the Augustinian notion of internal insubordination here? 

(3)  Paraphrase the metaphor developed in lines 9 through the first half of line 12?

(4)  Now look back at the beginning of the poem.  What do you take to be the 3 metaphors at work in lines 1-4?  How does this part hook up with the next two?  What is the meaning of the descriptor "three-person'd" in line 1?

(4)  There are two more metaphors, in the last half of line 12 to the end.  How are they related to the comparisons in lines 5-8 and 9-12?

(5)  Which picture of justification does the speaker's here most resemble? -- Luther's and Calvin's, or that elaborated by the Council of Trent?  Can you explain your answer?