1 Answer | Add Yours
The poem usually presented as the first of the Holy Sonnets -- the poem beginning "Thou hast made me" -- exemplifies many of the thematic and stylistic traits of the sequence as a whole. Such traits include the following:
* Direct, dramatic address to God ("Thou hast made me" ).
* A frequent tendency to ask questions and even to question God directly ("and shall thy work decay?" ).
* A tendency to beg God for help ("Repair me now" ).
* A pervasive awareness of the threat of death ("for now mine end doth haste" ).
* A tendency to emphasize paired opposites or paradoxes, as well as a tendency to use personfication ("I run to death, and death meets me as fast" ).
* A sense of gloom and even depression ("all my pleasures are like yesterday" ).
* A pervasive sense of fear ("I dare not move my dim eyes any way" ).
* A tendency to use balanced phrasing ("Despair behind, and death before" ).
* A tendency to emphasize the corruption of the body ("my feeble flesh doth waste" ).
* A strong personal conviction, by the poems' speakers, of their own spiritual corruption (as in the referenece to "sin" ).
* A frequent sense that God is the only answer to the speaker's sinfulness ("Only thou art above" ).
* A strong sense that only God can even initiate the process of salvation (as in the reference to God's "leave," or permission ).
* A tendency to emphasize sudden and unpredictable shifts, as in these lines:
. . . I rise again;
But our old subtle foe [Satan] so tempteth me
That not one hour myself I can sustain. (10-12)
* A tendency to use puns, as in line 12 (I cannot sustain myself; I cannot sustain my Self, my being).
* A repeated emphasis on God's freely given "grace" (13), which cannot be earned or taken for granted.
* A repeated emphasis on the great and irresistible power of God, who is able to draw a sinner to him as a magnet draws a piece of iron (14).
Donne employs many of these traits repeatedly in the Holy Sonnets, but he does so in ways that rarely seem merely repetitive or stale.
We’ve answered 318,912 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question