Batter my Heart Imagery, Aural and Rhythm

Essay by mnitschUniversity, Bachelor's May 2004

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"Batter my Heart" by John Donne is a plea to God by the narrator. He feels imprisoned by his own sinful nature and describes himself as taken to the "Enemy" of God, namely Satan. The sonnet conveys separate yet related concepts and emotions in three 'partitions' that are created as a result of the sonnets tightly structured form. Donne expresses spiritual transformation in passionate language, figures of speech, (visual imagery) sounds, (aural imagery) and rhythm to convey this theme.

The speaker has a truly passionate longing to be absolutely faithful to his God, but at the same time is rendered hopeless by the reality that he cannot possibly achieve this on his own. The entire sonnet is driven by this desperate longing for renewal. The primary technical device is the use of visual imagery and contradicting ideas, or paradoxes. The words of the poem are harsh and severe.

Imagery that touches the reader's sense of feeling, both physically and emotionally, is illustrated throughout the verse. The words paint the horrible images of being imprisoned, broken, or ravished. The reader feels the pain that would be brought if these things actually occurred. At the same time the harsh words and images cause the reader to also identify with the emotional state the speaker. The first quatrain represents the speaker as an individual pleading for God to "batter" his "heart" (1) and enter his life - breaking, blowing and burning him so that the speaker may arise from the flames, cleansed and chaste. In the second quatrain, the speaker compares himself to an "usurped town" (5) in which he has no power to allow God passage. He feels feeble as the reader is given the impression that matters are out of his hands as God's appointed official, "your viceroy...