John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 7 uses allusions to create emotions. The poem also portrays the conflict between sinfulness and holiness. The poet is clearly describing the transformation between overwhelming guilt and earnest devotion to faithfulness by carefully analysing Sonnet 7. This sonnet ends with hopefulness but is only a small part of the Christian relationship with God. Donne’s collection of Holy Sonnets reveals Donne’s obsession with death and fear of his eternal damnation.
Sonnet 7 is a song that depicts the human fallibility and depravity. It also conveys guilt and a struggle within, but it also shows God’s redemptive power. Donne used a structure divided into sections. The rhyme scheme for the first eight words is abbaabba, and it follows the same format as the Italian Sonnet. As the first eight line contain the most aggressive images, Donne’s hatred of himself is intensified. Donne begins the poem saying “Spit in mine face ye Jews” and “Pierce my side”,/ Buffet, scourge & crucify/ I have sinned/ The order of these six verbs creates a crescendo as the violence increases from the spitting to the face to Christ’s crucifixion. It is important to keep the rhyme scheme intact. The eight lines have the same abab ending rhymes. This rhyme scheme portrays the speaker’s anger and guilt as he realizes the extent of his sins. Sonnet 7’s 7th quatrain refers to Christ’s suffering during his death on the cross. The poet is aware of how heavy his sins are, which is emphasized by repetitions of “For I am sinned, but sinned”. His own awareness of his sins motivates him tell the Jews that he will be crucified as Christ did to them. At the end, you will see a colon. This is the transition. The rhyme scheme is the same, so the transition isn’t a distinct idea. Beginning line five signifies a change in tone. The word “but” is used to indicate that the speaker wants to express in these four words the transcendent glory of Christ’s cross. His suffering and death are “unsatisfactory” because they do not have the redeeming power Christ. He interlaced words like “impiety, inglorious”, with “glorified” to show his readers that the Jews had crucified a man whom they thought was “inexplicable” since they didn’t know he was God’s Son. However, it is even more shocking that the speaker is aware of Christ’s “now glorified” status, but continues to “crucify him every day.” This is because the speaker is reflecting on Christ’s sins. Sonnet 7’s last six lines are split into four lines, which follow the rhyme pattern cdcdd and end with a rhymed pairt, ee. This rhyme scheme changes the tone of the poem from guilt to wonder and amazement in recognition of Christ’s sacrifice and love. The speaker adds in line 9 that “Oh let’s him then, his weird love still admire,” marking an abrupt contrast in tone from octave or sestet. Why would Christ suffer for a sinner? The concept of Christ’s unending love and sacrifice is one that the poet does not understand and stands in awe. Lines 11-12 are used as an allegory in connection to the Old Testament. Jacob, the son Isaac, is Esau’s younger brother. Jacob, the son of Isaac is the younger twin to Esau. Jacob was “clothed, in vile, harsh attire” with “gainful intent,” but God gave Jacob the blessings that would have been given to Esau through the patriarchal lineage. Jacob still has to wear “vile Man’s flesh” which exposes him for all the sufferings and temptations this world offers. To highlight the wickedness inherent in human nature, the word “vile” appears twice. Sonnet 7 is therefore not just a sonnet about seeking justice or allowing guilt-ridden sufferings to consume him, but it also presents the Christian man’s daily life. He will sin and cross Christ every day, but he will never be ashamed of his actions. Instead, he will seek to repent in prayer and reflect on God’s goodness. This poem is a powerful example of the great redemptive power that Christ’s divinity and humanity can bring to bear.
This sonnet is one of Donne’s Holy Sonnets poems. Therefore, it is important that you see how Sonnet 7 matches the themes in his other sonnets. Donne’s sonnets are named after themes such as sin, grace, redemption. Sonnet 7 is about God’s amazing sacrifice. But we must remember the wickedness of humanity and the temptations of Satan to get us to Christ. The Holy Sonnets all seem to show that God is not only loving but also forgiving. However, those who violate His Word will be punished. Christ’s extraordinary love cannot and should not be used to cause misery or fear. The speaker uses Biblical allusions to illustrate the powerful relationship he has both with God and the amazing and confusing love that Christ shows.
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