What effect does John Donne achieve in lines 5-7 of Holy Sonnet 7?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Holy Sonnets all express something about the importance of faith and discuss the speaker's or man's relationship with God. Sonnet 7 discusses the importance of repentance of one's sins during this life, so that those souls can be reclaimed by God in the next life. Lines 5-7 are a list of all of the different ways that people die. He mentions all of the people "whom the flood did" referencing all of the men and woman who died when God flooded the world and all of the people who have died in water ever since. He next mentions deaths by fire, people who die in war, people who die from dearth (famine), old age, agues (fever/sickness), despair (mental illness), law (execution),  and chance (random accidents). Every single person in the world is going to die by one of the above means. The effect of these three lines is to show the complete and thorough consideration of all mankind and their eventual deaths. The call of the first quatrain is that the angels should sound their trumpets to awaken all of the dead souls so that they may join their bodies in Heaven and enjoy the eternal afterlife. It confirms that all mankind should have this opportunity if they are at peace with God.


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