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Batter my heart, three-personed God...How can I explain the contradictions in lines 2,...

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twilightfan89 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 20, 2008 at 11:19 AM via web

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Batter my heart, three-personed God...

How can I explain the contradictions in lines 2, 3, 13, and 14? And i don't know the meanings of "enthrall" (line 13) and "ravish" (line 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,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd 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.

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 20, 2008 at 11:53 AM (Answer #1)

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John Donne's "Batter My Heart" is full of paradox ( two things that seemingly can't be true but are) and ambiguity ( uncertainty of meaning). It is also full of Biblical imagery and metaphor. In Lines 2 and 3, Donne seems to echo the words in the Book of Hebrews ( part of the New Testament) that "For whom the Lord loves, he chastens and scourages every son he receives". This means God tests every believer. The metaphors used in the poem revolve around the idea that the relationship between God and the believer is like that in a marriage. The paradoxes in lines 2 and 3 resemble those events of marriage which can be both wonderful( "shine,breathe, mend") and challenging
( knock, bend, overthrow). As for the last two lines, Donne uses the words "entrall" and "ravish"in unusual ways. Both words have sexual connotations, but if we interpret entrall to mean "shelter" and "ravish" to mean "chastening or testing", then the line can be understood and Donne inviting God to discipline him harshly in order to spiritually purify him.

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campeador | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 16, 2008 at 2:24 AM (Answer #2)

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1. Blake decries the burden of free will, for his reason ('your viceroy in me') is 'weak or untrue'. His emotions, although leaning towards God, are impotent, for Blake is "betroth'd unto [God's] enemy'.

2. Blake thus wants God to take him by force, and uses the metaphors of a town and of a woman, both captive to an usurper. Their defenses should be battered and overwhelmed, so that both can be saved from the clutches of the enemy.

3. Blake makes liberal use of paradox and oxymoron, very effective literary devises in painting the human condition as one of uncertainty and mystery: "break, blow, burn and make me new." "that I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me". "Except you enthrall (enslave) me, [I] never shall be free". "Nor [will I] ever [be] chaste, unless you ravish (take by force) me."

 

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