Reciprocal love in John Donne's Holy Sonnets

1733 Words Jul 15th, 2018 7 Pages
Reciprocal love in John Donne's Holy Sonnets

Holy Sonnet XV deals with the question of reciprocal love that runs throughout Donne’s religious poetry. The Sonnet is an address of the speaker’s mind to the speaker’s soul; it is a meditation on the Trinity and man’s relationship to God. The poem’s form and the multi-layered conflation throughout expound upon the nature of the Trinity. The theme of humility in reciprocal religious love or receiving and understanding God’s glory (as Donne understood it) runs throughout the poem. This allows the speaker’s soul to understand his own need for humility in order to love god fully. Donne uses the Sonnet form cunningly in this poem; the formal divisions of the Sonnet reflect the trinity, with
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Line seven shows the speaker’s humility with “deign,” a humility that is necessary in order for a reciprocal love relationship, which is the aim of the meditation. However, in conjunction with showing humility through the use of “deign,” man is simultaneously elevated in status, because God chooses him as a partner for the expression of “glory,” which is perhaps God’s pure love.

Donne uses “beget” twice, once in past tense, and once as a present participle with “ still begetting”(6). This implies the past and present, as well as motion forward in time (“still”), and therefore the future. The notion of continual creation references the eternal. It is perhaps not coincidental that this reference to eternity occurs in line six, which is the exact middle of the three four line sections that represent the three aspects of the trinity. Thus, we see yet another level of conflation: conflating the trinity not only with the mind, body, and soul in man, but also with the past, present, and future, as embodied by the eternal. Here we can understand Donne’s concept of God as “The All,” which he describes in “Annunciation” from La Corona. God “the all” manifests himself to man through the trinity, and the tripartite nature of God manifests itself through all creation in man himself, in time, and even in the three-dimensional nature of visible space.

In the third section, the role of conflation in the sonnet becomes very
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