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Critical appreciation of "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God

'Batter my heart, three person'd God' is one of the holy sonnets of John Donne. It deals with the poet's agonizing struggle in his heart and his passionate appeal to God to purify him of his sinfulness, even by using force. The poet likens himself to a town which is illegally occupied by Satan or the evil forces. His soul belong to God but it has been taken away by the Devil. He himself is willing to pay homage to God, but he cannot do so because he is under the power of the Devil. He is unable to achieve his ends due to the weakness of Reason, God's agent because he is enslaved by the material world of temptation. So, he appeals to God to use His force and release him from the horrible clutches of evil forces. The poet can only be free from sin and can only be chaste if he is ravished by the Almighty. In other words, the poet thinks that he will not be purified till God takes physical possession of him just as lover possesses his beloved.
critical appreciation of "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God

The poet here has made use of sensual relationship for holy transformation and thus there is a novelty in the presentation of his theme. He clarifies his position through the metaphor of lover-beloved relationship. The poet is the beloved while God is the lover. Traditionally God is the man, while human beings are all females. The poet's soul loves God and desires to be united with Him. Unfortunately she has been forcibly betrothed to the Devil. Only God can rescue him from the clutches of evil forces through divine consummation.

In a wonderful way Donne begs God to take possession of his heart through a series of brilliant paradoxes. The first paradox may be traced in the opening lines where the poet wants his heart to be battered in order to be purified. The poet wants to be "over thrown" in order to "rise and stand". He wants God to " break, blow, burn" him in order to "make him new". He has used several words expressing violence and force. What he really means to say is that he should be coerced into a path of righteousness, because he cannot be corrected or reformed by indulgence or lenient methods. The second paradox is that the poet loves God and is yet " betrothed " to the God's enemy, Satan. This means that the poet wishes to give up his sinfulness but his will power is not strong enough for the purpose. The third paradox is that the poet cannot because free unless he is enslaved by God. This means, he can be released from the clutches of the devil if he is made a prisoner by God. The final paradox is that, in order to become chaste, he should be ravished by God. Being ravished means losing one's chastity but the poet means that only if God takes forcible possession of him, then he may get rid of his sinfulness.

The sonnet is written after the Italian or Patrarchan model with the rhyme scheme, abba, abba; cdcdee. There is ample use of similes and metaphors conveying the emotion of the poet. The poet compares himself to a town which has been invaded and usurped by a conqueror, i.e. the Devil. This town, in spite of its best efforts, cannot drive away the victor in order to be restored to its rightful king. Again the poet's faculty of reason is described as God's "viceroy" i.e, a functionary working on behalf of God. Then the word "captive'd," "betrothed", " divorce ", "enthrall" are all used in metaphorical senses.Further, the poet has made his sincere prayer to God by addressing Him as 'three person'd God'. The reference is to the doctrine of the trinity which means the union of three persons--God, the Son and the Holy Ghost in one God-head. The idea of violence runs throughout the poem like an under current. The hammering of the tinker or the blacksmith is followed by the siege and capture of the besieged town. The marriage is followed by ravishment. There is a continuous comparison of secular love to divine love. Donne's artistry is evident in his expression of physical love which is used to advantage in portraying holy love.

To sum up, the poem shows the sincerity of the poet's feeling and a real desire on his part to be reformed and to become a pious Christian. That is why, it also inspires the reader to follow the path of virtue and religion.


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