Donne’s Holy Sonnet Xiv As Proclamation Of Intimacy With God

John Donne wrote the poem “Holy Sonnet XIV”, which reflects Donne’s desire for a closer relationship to God. Donne seems to be implying that he wants a platonically close relationship with God. However, the poem’s ambiguous words could indicate that Donne is seeking sexual abuse from God. Donne’s use of sexual imagery in such a descriptive way is it possible to portray it as rape imagery. Donne also uses sexual and religious representations to emphasize the closeness he desires to God.

Donne uses harsh language to express his disgust at the idea that God is abusing him sexually in Holy Sonnet XIV. Donne would rather God hit him repeatedly than gently inviting Donne into God’s arms to accept God’s word. In the book of Revelations, God says that if anyone listens to His voice and opens the door, He will come into that person and they will share a meal together. God is a beneficent and shining figure who seeks broken souls to be healed. Donne’s line 2 says that God is “as still but knock, breath, shine, & seek to mend”. Donne asking God to force his way into Donne’s heart is not what God is described as doing in biblical texts. Donne is asking God for God’s abuse because he doesn’t deserve Gods love. Donne also likens himself to a town he wants God to take away. Donne is the one who takes away his faith and love for God. He mentions in the poem how the town is owned by another person, God. Donne then says that he struggles to confess to God. This is Donne’s first line. He says, “batter your heart, three-personed God” (Donne Line 1), as battering can also be used to attack a city’s fortress. Donne uses harsh language throughout the poem, including batter, o’erthrow. Donne is asking God to heal his broken, old soul and give him a new one. Donne’s fourth-line poem contains harsh alliteration, suggesting sexual violence. Donne lines 4 and 5 describe Donne’s desire for God to use his power to “break, blow. burn, and makenew.” Donne lines 4 and 5 describe Donne’s desire for God be in control of him sexually. Donne asks God to blow Donne’s dust on the ground and then burn his remains. Because he wishes God to transform him violently, Donne asks God to do so. The repetition of the first sound in line 4 of the poem is a sign that the poet wants God to punish him sexually.

Donne discusses his unfaithful relationship and God’s love in “Holy Sonnet XIV” lines seven through eight. Donne’s portrayal of the relationship is more humanized and marital than a traditional religious relationship with God. Donne claims that God is his governor, and should defend him. But Donne is arrested. Donne line 8, 8: The imprisoning of Donne’s reason “proves weak, untrue”. Donne’s reason became entangled in ungodly things and revealed him to not be faithful to God. Donne is a longing for a close relationship, as shown in lines ten to eleven. Donne line 10 says that Donne loves God deeply, and would happily be loved back. This could mean that Donne desires to be intimately with God, but is married to either satan and his worldly possessions. Donne asks God for forgiveness from satan and his worldly possessions, in order to be with God. Donne line 11 reads, “divorce Me, Untie, Or Break That Knot Again” (Donne line 11). Again is the keyword. It is important that the word “repeat” is used because it indicates that Donne has gone off-course with God and wishes God would take him back. Donne’s line 12 reads, “Take me to You, Imprison Me” Donne is asking God to cover him in God’s love and affection. Donne could also be asking God for God to grab hold of him, ensnare and embrace him with God’s affection. God grabbing him and entrapping his body is sexually offensive imagery.

Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV ends with the following two lines: “Unless I enthrall you, never shall become free, / Not ever chaste except you ravish my soul” (Donne Line 14). Donne uses the words, “Enthrall me, never shall be free” (Donne line 14). However, these words have a double entendre meaning that they can mean more than one thing. You can enslave or excite by using the term enthrall. You can ravish to charm, captivate, or excite. These words are also used to express his desire for God to ravish him in order to restore his chasteness. Donne says that he wants God to be his follower, but that God must enslave and capture him. God cannot make Donne chaste unless God excites him. This could be interpreted as a relationship of a master with a slave. Donne is the master. Donne desires God to rule and ravish the slaves he adores. Because he is unfaithful, he desires to be separated from his enemy. In context, being dominated and ravished is considered sexual.

Let’s conclude. John Donne imagines a sexually violent relationship with God in his poem. Some of the words are so harsh that they can be interpreted as rape imagery. To illustrate his point, he employs harsh language and double-entendres. John Donne’s “Holy Sonnet XIV” poem depicts a sexualized and unwholesome relationship between God and man. However, these images are not made clear by using cut language. Instead, they are hidden behind indeterminate words. It appears that Donne wants a relationship with God as a follower of God. However, a deeper look at the text in the poem reveals that Donne desires a more intimate relationship with God.


  • stanleybyrne

    Stanley Byrne is a 26-year-old education blogger and teacher. He has degrees in education and political science from the University of Notre Dame and has worked in various teaching and research positions since he graduated in 2014. He is the author of a number of educational blog posts and has written for Huffington Post, The Guardian, and Salon.