In "Holy Sonnet IV," the metaphysical poet John Donne generates a powerful tension as meaning and emotion strive within and against the metrical form of the Petrarchan sonnet.
Donne employs the interplay of form with emotion in this sonnet. Much like the other Holy Sonnets, the tone is one of fear and trepidation, which emanates from the poet's awareness of his sinfulness, a condition which causes him to doubt that his soul can be saved.
In the octave (rhyme scheme abbaabba), the speaker presents the problem of his soul's being black with sin: "Oh, my black soul!" He compares his soul to a pilgrim who has committed treason while abroad and, therefore, cannot return to his country. Or, his soul is like a thief who desires his release from...
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