John Donne's The Holy Sonnets
By making many references to the Bible, John Donne's Holy Sonnets reveal his want to be accepted and forgiven by God. A fear of death without God's forgiveness of sins is conveyed in these sonnets. Donne expresses extreme anxiety and fright that Satan has taken over his soul and God won't forgive him for it or his sins. A central theme of healing and forgiveness imply that John Donne, however much he wrote about God and being holy, wasn't such a holy man all of the time and tried to make up for it in his writing.
In sonnet 1, the speaker is talking to God. He tells God that his death is near. He feels that with all of the sins he has committed he is leaning towards hell instead of heaven. Satan has tempted him too much and he doesn't know if he can even go an hour without giving in to Satan's evil ways. The speaker asks God to give him wings so that he may ascend into heaven and prevent Satan from taking him to hell. There is a sense of manipulation in the speaker in the beginning of the sonnet. "Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?'; In other words, "You're making your own creation look bad if you don't help me to become holy again.'; This starts out the sonnet with a bitter tone, a favorable way for Donne to begin. But in the end, the speaker is pleading God to give him wings, ending the sonnet with a sense of desperation. The worried tone of the last few lines is a rather common one in the Holy Sonnets. It exhibits the recurring theme of fear and need for acceptance.
The speaker in sonnet 5 starts off by using the metaphor that he is a world. He is made craftily and "of an angelike sprite;'; implying holiness. He then goes on to say that he has sinned and needs both parts of his world to be cleansed and renewed. He asks God to give him more seas, a world's tears continuing the metaphor, to wash his sin away. Then the speaker makes a Bible reference. He asks the Lord to burn him. It is said in the Bible that the end of the world will be caused by fire. This reference is saying that the speaker wants God to destroy his world now so that he can start anew and forget about his sins in the past. Again we see the theme of sin and the want to be healed and accepted. By using this metaphor in the sonnet, he gives himself a lot of credit. To say that he is a world which God must pay so much attention to creates extreme self-significance. And to make the allusion that the actions of the Bible would be appropriate to be put to use on such an unholy world seems a little absurd.
The end of the world is how sonnet 7 starts out. This is a reminder of the fire reference in sonnet 5, to which sonnet 7 has a strong connection. In this sonnet, the speaker wants to repent so that he will not die like the other mortals who sin. "All whom the flood did, and fire shall, o'erthrow,'; is an allusion to the Bible...