How would you characterize God in John Donne's poetry? 

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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John Donne (c. 1572–1631) was born into a Roman Catholic family but converted to Anglicanism and became an ordained priest in the Church of England in 1615.  His portrait of God could be characterized as a Christian, and specifically Calvinist one, emphasizing the soul's longing for God and the harsh qualities of God's love. 

As an Anglican priest, Donne would have been required to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England which define the nature of God as follows:

Article 1. There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

This is reflected in the way Donne addresses God as "three person'd God" in Holy Sonnet 74: "Batter my heart, three person'd God". In this poem, the speaker is portrayed as loving God but as unable to consummate that love by his own will alone, a theological position combining assumptions of the total depravity of humanity and God's irresistible grace. Thus the speaker of the poem pleads:

Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I

Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,

Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

Much of Donne's work portrays the relationship of humans to God via erotic metaphors, with faith and love described in terms of metaphors of sexual yearning, as in the poem "Show me dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear" where the speaker asks "let mine amorous soul court thy mild Dove ..."

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