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John Donne (1572–1631), Sonnet XIV


Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you

           As yet but knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend;

           That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me and bend

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

I, like a usurped town to another due,

           Labor to admit you, but, oh, to no end;

           Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend;

But is captive and proves weak or untrue.


Yet dearly I love you and would be loved fain;

           But am betrothed unto your enemy;

           Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

           Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

           Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


John Donne (1572–1631) was born into a prominent Catholic family but converted to the Church of England in his twenties.  At the age of eleven he entered Oxford University for a period of three years, and then Cambridge, but he never took a degree.  In 1615 he became an Anglican priest, and in 1621 the dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.  Donne’s poetry, prose and sermons were famous for their eloquence, subtly, psychological analysis and brilliance, especially as they described the complex paradoxes of the human condition. In this sonnet he implores God to free him from his seemingly intransigent entanglement with sin.

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