What did Donne mean when he wrote "Meditation I"? How did he use metaphor? What message did he want to convey?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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John Donne's Divine Meditations, sometimes also known as his "Holy Sonnets" were published posthumously, rather than during his lifetime, and seem to be private reflections on God and God's relationship to humanity. Although they do not convey some sort of singular "message", as they are not sermons, the do reflect a Christian viewpoint.

The first "Divine Meditation" is an Italian sonnet beginning "As due by many titles I resign ...". It describes Donne, as all humans, as a divine creation. The narrator asks why, though created by God, he sometimes feels as if the Devil claims part of his soul. Behind the portrait of God and Satan warring for the narrator's soul lies the notion of salvation by grace, that the narrator can only be saved by God's will not his own.

The main use of metaphor in the sonnet is to externalize the struggle in his own soul as if the soul were a woman being fought over by a God who loves her but does not choose her and Satan who hates her but does seduce her. The other metaphors of the poem, that of the narrator as a sheep tended by God as the Good Shepherd, the body as the temple of the soul, and the human as the image of God are taken from the Bible and are quite common in Christian iconography.

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