John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 9. Poem Analysis

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John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 9. Poem Analysis

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Table of Contents

  • John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 9 Analysis
  • The Impact of John Donne's on His Place in Society
  • The Tone Variation in John Donne's Holy Sonnet 9
  • Writing Style of Holy Sonnet 9
  • Concluding Thoughts on the Sonnet Analysis

John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 9 Analysis

“If Poisonous Minerals,” is Holy Sonnet 9 written by John Donne. In this Sonnet, a religious man is having a conversation with God and questions him as to why humans are being punished for their sins when God’s other creations have sinned as well. He soon stops questioning God and asks him to forgive him for his sins because God is so merciful. The central idea is that God is forgiving. In order to understand this Sonnet, the reader must know about John Donne’s life and how it impacted his societal role, the tone, and the writing styles used.

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The Impact of John Donne's on His Place in Society

John Donne’s life had an impact on his societal role. His writings portray his experiences throughout his life and with religion itself. Donne was born in London, England in 1572. He was known as the founder of metaphysical poets, poets whose work was characterized by the use of conceits, along with some other poets such as George Herbert and Richard Crashaw. Donne startles his readers by turning his knowledge of religion into long metaphors. His influence of his writings come from his experience from “[the] period of theological and political unrest for both England and France” (“John”) causing the Protestant Massacre. Being born into a Roman Catholic family, caused his passion for religion to grow. Donne studied at both Oxford and Cambridge but didn’t get his degree due to his religious beliefs. He joined the Anglican Church two years later after being religiously pressured. Secretly marrying Anne More, the niece of Lady Egerton, Donne’s father in law did not approve and got Donne put in jail. After he was released, the two ran away together. More and Donne spent a good while together and soon after she died, Donne became full of grief and dedicated himself to his poetry. John Donne later became the dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in 1621. As he grew older, Donne’s writing displayed his fear of death. He became very passionate and interested in death. Donne later passed away on March 31, 1631 and was buried at the Saint Paul’s Cathedral. John Donne uses his experiences to present a message to the people and wanted people to view God the way he did.

The Tone Variation in John Donne's Holy Sonnet 9

There is a very passionate tone all throughout the Sonnet as well as a shift in tones. Donne’s Sonnets provide an anxious attention allowing the readers to reach “the final destiny of the speaker's soul” (Young 14). In the beginning of the Sonnet, the tone is more anxious and uneasy and shifts into a more remorseful tone towards the end. For example, in the third and fourth lines the speaker asks, “If lecherous goats, if serpents envious Cannot be damned, alas, why should I be?” (Donne 1412; 2-4). The speaker is confused and curious as to why the snake from the Garden of Eve was not punished but God punished Adam and Eve. As we continue the Sonnet, the speaker comes to a realization. He questions himself “But who am I, that dare dispute with thee” (Donne 1412; 9). The speaker realizes after criticizing God that he is in no position to question God’s doings. In the end of the Sonnet, the speaker asks God to not only forgive his sins but to forget him too. John Donne’s shift in tones emphasizes his thoughts and communications with God as well as the main idea he is trying to get across.

Writing Style of Holy Sonnet 9

Donne’s writing style in Holy Sonnet 9 is different compared to his other Sonnets. This Sonnet follows the Italian structure of ABBA ABBA with end variation of ABBA CC. For instance, if we look at the ending of lines five through eight, we can see the ABBA pattern. In line 5, the word “me” rhymes with the word “he” in line 8; In line 6, the word “heinous” rhymes with the word “glorious” in line 7. The CC pattern can also be observed in the last two lines of the Sonnet because “debt” and “forget” rhyme with each other without any other lines in between. The Italian Sonnet allows a “stanza of eight lines (an octave) that contains a complete thought” leaving the rest six lines (a sestet) to form the conclusion “which is characteristically both unpredictable and intense” (Bloom 14). The use of the Italian Sonnet structure allows Donne to comment or offer a solution to the problem. In this case, the speakers problem is that God punishes humans more than any of God’s other creations; The solution to the problem is that he wants God to forgive and forget him. This Sonnet also has 10 syllables per line, also known as iambic pentameter. The use of the iambic pentameter creates a rhythm in the Sonnet allowing it to flow easy and making the speaker’s appeal more apparent.

Concluding Thoughts on the Sonnet Analysis

Understanding John Donne’s background information, what the tone is, and the writing style Donne uses, the reader will be able to better understand the Sonnet. Being able to identify the shifts in tone will allow the readers to sympathize with the speaker’s voice. Once the writing styles have been established, the readers can comprehend the purpose of the Sonnet.

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