Today is the feast day of John Donne * (1572-1631) , arguably the most famous of the so-called “metaphysical poets”. His love poems are beautiful and evocative, sometimes erotic, and his satires reveal a keen wit and a sharp pen! Although he lived a somewhat scandalous life in his youth, he eventually took orders and became Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. His poetry turned to religious themes, with dramatic imagery, and he remains very well known for them. (“No man is an island,” for example, is from a Donne poem.) Here is one of his Holy Sonnets.
Holy Sonnet 14
Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
John Donne ca. 1618