At one point in time, we are all desperate for something. As humans, our complete helplessness sometimes leads us to become desperate. It is human nature to become desperate in our time of great need, and as humans, our desperation is not cured until we gain a sense of security. To cure our desperation, we must communicate our need to others. Whether we communicate spiritually, physically, or both, humans are social creatures and thrive on communication. In John Donne and Stevie Smith’s poems, the authors truly capture the essence of helplessness through their characters who express desperation in their poems. In “Batter my heart three-personed God, for You” by John Donne, the author depicts an individual desperately crying out for spiritual help to achieve a sense of goodness and security. Parallel to John Donne’s poem, Stevie Smith expresses desperation through a man depicted as crying out for earthly help in “Not Waving but Drowning.” Through imagery, sounds, and language, these two poems are examples that complete helplessness leads us to desperation, and desperation can only be cured through expressing and communicating that desperation to others.
In John Donne’s “Batter my heart three-personed God, for You,” the author uses vivid imagery to fully express the troubles that led the main character to become so overwhelmed that he became desperate for help. In the middle of the poem, the individual states, “I, like an usurped town to another due / Labor to admit You, but Oh! to no end” (5-6). Through comparing the character to a town, the audience gets a descriptive image of an enslaved town trying to get help but always failing. Through this imagery, the author gives his audience a feeling of forever and never-ending desperation. Though this individual tries to let God in, the individual feels this can never be achieved. This creates his feelings of helplessness which leads him to feel desperate. And through this constant, never-ending battle to let God in, his desperation leads him to express and communicate this feeling in a spiritual way to be resolved. It seems the individual believes that through faith, prayer, and efforts to be closer to God, their sense of security will be achieved. William Zunder says, “The Holy Sonnets, then, represent a turning to God at a moment of personal and cultural crisis.”
The imagery and symbols used in “Not Waving but Drowning” make the audience feel the complete hopelessness and desperation of the dead man drowning. In the first stanza of the poem, the narrator states the first two lines, and the dead man states the last two lines of the stanza.
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning. (1-4)
The first two lines contradict reality; dead men do not make any noise. Also, the last two lines tell what the dead man is saying. The image being represented is a ghost trying to make contact with the people who knew him....