Attempt a critical appreciation of John Donne’s "A Hymn to God the Father".Donne’s A Hymn to God the Father

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Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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One of Donne's last works, written in 1623, "A Hymn to God the Father" is all-embracing in its religious feeling. From its opening reference to original sin - "that sin where I begun,/Which was my sin, though it were done before..." - to its final words of acceptance - "I fear no more" - the poem narrates the sin, the repentance, the forgiveness, and the struggle for holiness of John Donne and of many others.

The poem's salient characteristic - both in form and thought - is its circularity. In the poem Donne describes his life as a kind of anti-creative movement: Sinful thoughts beget sinful words which beget sinful deeds, which in turn give rise to more sinful thoughts. The poet's self-absorbed round of sin is signalled in the text by the coda of "For I have more" appearing at the end of both the first and second stanzas. However, if the poet's life revolves in the dreary circularity of sin, the merciful God must follow in circles, too:

"But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
    Shall shine as he shines now..."

Punning, but at the same time ardently serious, Donne looks forward with longing to his last day when the Son of God rises upon the poet in a definitive new day of forgiveness where fear of punishment for sin is "no more".  

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