A Restoration Of Power: Metaphor, Simile, And Imagery In Donne's "Batter My Heart"

886 words - 4 pages

A Restoration of Power:

The Use of Metaphor, Simile and Imagery in John Donne's "Batter My Heart"

In most world religions, deities, though almighty, are belittled and given human qualities as a way for human understanding. Unlike the typical attributing of human emotions and responses to a divine being, John Donne's Batter My Heart, takes the anthropomorphosis further by conveying God as three distinct figures: an inventor, a ruler, and a lover. However, though Donne's use of figures, such as metaphor and simile, humanize God, his use of violent imagery recovers the reverence of God's powerful divinity.

The poem opens abruptly as the speaker demands the "three personed God" (1), or the Christian Trinity, to "Batter [his] heart" (1) in order to "make [him] new" (4). The speaker's imploring plea for God to "o'erthrow" (3) and "break" (4) him, materializes the speaker, presenting a metaphor that compares him to an inanimate, factory product of God, the inventor. Like an inventor's creation, the speaker can be dismembered and rebuilt by his creator to produce an improved model. The speaker's longing wish to "rise, and stand" (2) exposes the hopelessness of his current state, and creates the image of a crumpled man, overwhelmed with the weight of his past.

On the other hand, the second quatrain introduces a simile that compares the speaker to a town that has been seized from God, the rightful ruler. The claim that he "Labor[s] to admit" (6) God "to no end" (6) suggests the speaker's guilt in his failed attempt to caste the occupier, sinful temptation, from his "town" (5), or life. He appears to struggle internally, toggling between a life of righteousness and a life of desire. Aware that he should revere God's guidance through "Reason" (7), the speaker shamefully admits his doubt, claiming his thoughts are too "weak or untrue" (8) to fight his captivity.

The final human form assigned to God is the estranged lover. Despite previous uncertainty, the speaker circles back to the desire for redemption through an adulterous metaphor of a young woman who has discovered a new love, but is "betrothed unto [his] enemy" (10). Pleading for this lover to steal her away from the engagement with Satan, the speaker expresses her genuine desire by posing two paradoxes, that if God does not capture her, she "never [will] be free" (13) and that if he does not "ravish" (14) her she will never be pure.

However, although God is humanized throughout this poem by his placement into archetypical human situations, the violent imagery rescues the poem from diminishing God's power. The first three...

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