“Batter My Heart” by John Donne

After high school I attended Biola University for two years. During that time I took Composition 110A and Composition 110B from Dr. Pickett. I enjoyed his class. I learned a lot. I think what has stayed with me the most was his constant teaching that in order to write, you have to have something to say. If your thoughts aren’t in order and you don’t have a clear message, there’s not much point in writing. I have many times written an entire page and then erased the whole thing because I realized I had no idea what I was trying to say. No clear thought. I am very appreciative of the opportunity I had to take Dr. Pickett’s comp classes, and the lessons that have stuck over the years.  

 

I was organizing a giant pile of piano books and folders of music a couple weeks ago, and I found a folder that had some of the papers I wrote in college. I found a paper I had written for Dr. Pickett where we had been told to compare and contrast two poems, “Unholy Sonnet” by Mark Jarmon and “Batter My Heart” by John Donne. It was a good paper. I got a good grade, but what captured my attention was the poems. Especially the poem by Donne. Here it is.

Holy Sonnet 14

Batter my heart, three-personed 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 usurped town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but O, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captivated, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,

But am betrothed 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.

As I was reading through my paper I was impressed with how much I had been able to get out of the poem. Really good analysis. But, what struck me was, I read this poem when I was eighteen years old. I wrote this paper when I was eighteen years old. At that age I did not understand the true angst that comes from failing again and again. I did not understand the desperation that leads you to call out to God, “That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me and bend Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new…”, “for I, Except you enthrall me, never shall be free…” 

 

I find myself in this place today. Insecurities that I thought I had conquered, haunting me again. Evidence of long term strongholds, staring me in the face, bending me down with discouragement. Old patterns I thought I had broken still tapping me on the shoulder. “Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain, But am betrothed unto your enemy…” 

 

And this evening, as I retreat from everyone, hide myself away, I read this poem again, and I am encouraged. “Divorce me, untie or break that knot again; Take me to you, imprison me…” I come again and say, Here I am God. Help. And his Word assures me. 

 

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

 

I find myself standing on the firm foundation of the promises of God. Romans 8 pretty much says everything that needs to be said. If you have time, go ahead and read the whole chapter. Romans 8 

 

And I end with this prayer, “Batter my heart, three-personed God…” 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s