John Donne Questions and Answers

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How does Donne use wit and startling imagery in his poems "Batter My Heart" and "The Flea"?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "Batter My Heart, three-person'd God," Donne draws liberally upon biblical imagery in calling upon the Almighty to take hold of and consume him. The opening quatrain is replete with verbs suggesting a variety of work-related activities:

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

Some critics have seen this line as an allusion to certain verses in the Bible, such as Isaiah 48:10, in which the image of the furnace is used as a metaphor for how the human soul is shaped by God. The speaker of the poem wants God to take hold of him, an unworthy sinner, like a piece of metal and forge his soul anew in the furnace of affliction.

An even more striking image comes in the next quatrain. Here, the central image is that of a besieged town. What makes this image all the more arresting is that, from within the walls of that town (i.e., the speaker's heart), so to speak, comes a loud, insistent call to break down the gates. God is envisaged here as an almighty battering-ram, responding to an S.O.S....

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