Ash Wednesday in the Poetry Corner

At Georgetown’s Dahlgren Chapel today, Fr. James Walsh quoted from this poem by John Donne. Enjoy.

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
Labour to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely’I love you,’ and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

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2 Responses to “Ash Wednesday in the Poetry Corner”

  1. Superbrim Says:

    I tried hard to enjoy that, but there were way too many apostrophes. You have to use punctuation sparingly. I especially hate it when people put quotes around everything. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve read that are like…. I have nothing against “conservatives”, but when they start talking about things like “values” and “morals” I get a little “uneasy”, because everything is “relative”, and I want to live in a “world” where everyone is “equal”, and are “free” to do as they please, like putting “quotes” around words that are being used in a perfectly “normal” way.

  2. Mark Grannis Says:

    As far as I can tell, the unusual apostrophes (i.e., the ones that do not indicate the omission of a letter) are there to indicate which unaccented syllables are supposed to be run together in order to preserve the meter. I think that could have been left to the reader to figure out, and of course many modern readers would not be put off by an anapest or two among the iambs.

    But I don’t think the poem’s merits depend to any great degree on how Donne used apostrophes. The paradox of perfect freedom in perfect obedience is a bona fide Big Idea, and I love the imagery of the last two lines, whatever a Freudian might say about that. (BTW, don’t start Googling to find out what Freudians think of this poem unless you’re in the mood for a lot of moderately shocking nonsense.)


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