The Ultimate Spiritual Plateau Essay Research Paper

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The Ultimate Spiritual Plateau Essay, Research Paper The Ultimate Spiritual Plateau: An Analysis of John Donne s Holy Sonnet 10 In John Donne s Holy Sonnet 10, the speaker finds himself in an intense struggle to obtain the ultimate relationship, which is to have God in his life. He feels distant from God because of his sins and finds it difficult to accept being saved as a sinner and being free from sin. The speaker wants God to enter his life, but feels unworthy due to his sinful past. The moral and religious qualms of the speaker are manifest during the sonnet, which seem like an avowal between lovers. These convictions of guilt, which stem from his sexual emotions, are what induce a desire for a relationship with God. Donne conveys the struggle between the base reality in

which we are firmly planted, and our need to raise above our earthly confines, with the help of God, towards salvation. The first quatrain shows the speaker’s aversion towards his mortal body and soul. Like a veteran crusader’s armor, the speaker’s heart is badly in need of repair, “Batter my heart…for You / As yet but knock, breath, shine, and seek to mend…” (1-2) The language, though not quite onomatopoeic, reflects the process of repair and maintenance. Craftsmen manipulate materials to change the outward appearance of an object: blacksmiths shape metal, weavers spin cloth from thread, and carpenters use lumber to frame houses. The physical properties of these primary materials remain unaltered. For the craftsman, to 2 “knock, breath, shine, and…mend,” (2)

would change only the appearance or function of the speaker’s heart. However, repair isn’t what the speaker wants because his mortal defects are too great. Being mended is not going to solve the problem because he will not be saved, and will continue to be bogged down in his own sinful mire. It is only God the creator, unlike human craftsmen, who is capable of this outright spiritual transfiguration. “That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend / Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.” (3-4) Here, Donne’s language echoes his knowledge of alchemy: the science of changing lead into gold. To “break, blow, [and] burn” would transform existing materials into completely new ones. The speaker seeks not mere metamorphosis, but a violent rebirth.

Furthermore, the alliteration and assonance of the words “batter… breath… bend… break, blow, [and] burn” paint the sound of a deeply seated object being struck by a blunt instrument, or a priest striking his breast in furious prayer. In the second quatrain, a complication arises when the speaker says he is to another due. (5) There is another character in the poem that has seized him by force, like an usurped town. (5) In the appropriation of a town, the usurper must be the new ruler of the town, the authoritative leader who snatches the reins of power from the original leader. This image of an usurped town makes an interesting metaphor for Satan s heist of a man s soul from God. It is the Christian belief that the human spirit, originally owned by God, is at a constant

battle with the devil, who in turn provides perpetual temptation to which the Christians fall, and want God to mitigate. The speaker 3 says, Labor to admit You, but Oh, to no end! (6) He desires and works to admit God as the beholder, the controller and owner of his spirit, but the Devil s seizure is to no end. (6) His defense of the viceroy (7) in him proves weak and untrue. (8) The second part of the quatrain expands upon the speaker s spiritual incompetence, “Reason, Your viceroy in me, me should defend…” (7) Therefore, Reason, being a divine gift, presides over our bodies much like heaven presides over the earth. Reason, then, is of God, a small stipend of the Almighty. The speaker’s body, suffering from weakness, offers no defense from outside temptation; he