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In comparison, he feels weak and inferior. These emotions are driven by fear of God and while fear is never good, it can be constructive in regard to building character.
Donne's language is significant because it emphasizes the mood and tone of the poem. He describes himself as "riddenly distempered, cold and hot" (7) - words that illustrate the conflict he is feeling. It is important to realize how these conflicts allow the poet see himself as he actually is. The cold and hot images are polar opposites and they reveal the poet's awareness of his human condition. The conflict within him is also illustrated with the image of a prayer and muteness. God's infinite power forces the poet to realize that he is none but he calls to God. His "devout fits" (12) are come and go just as his fear does and while he realizes that he will have good days and bad days, he is much better with the love of God in his life. The language in this poem is harsh and abrasive and it is successful in conveying the poet's frame of mind.
It is also important to note the placement of this poem is the arrangement of the "Holy Sonnets." "Sonnet XIX" is the last sonnet in the collection and it seems to sum up what the poet has been feeling up until this point. The poem represents a culmination of his good, or best, days. In the beginning of the composition, he is fearful and he seeks God's attention. His fear and his ultimate discovery reassure him of God's redeeming love. However, it also reminds him of the fact that he must maintain his worthiness, which is difficult because he is human. Humanity is the inconsistency that stands in his way and it something that the poet cannot change about himself. This is the conflict, or the contrariness the poet experiences.
Sonnet XIX" focus on the conflict exposes the human spirit and psyche as the poet comes to terms with God's love. To assume the poet's opinion regarding God's love by examining this poem alone would be unjust. The poet does not draw any negative conclusions regarding God's love and is instead in awe of it. For example, in "Sonnet XIV" the poet is asking God to pound on his heart so that his human nature and spirit might be broken and therefore be more open to God's goodness. He asks God to overthrow his nature and "bend/Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new" (Sonnet XIV Donne 3-4). The poet begs to be broken because he does not want to become captive of Satan. The poet also begs God to pour his love on him so that he may be free. This voice is quite different from the voice we sense in "Sonnet XIX." In "Sonnet XIV," there is an internal struggle and the poet is experiencing inadequacy as he does in "Sonnet XIX." This feeling leads him to seek God out and beg him to do what he must so that the poet can be free from his sinful nature. Both poems are an expression, or result of, fear. Fear drives the poet in each case to flesh out his emotions regarding God so the poet can be free. "Sonnet XIV" begs God for love and mercy while "Sonnet XIX" is more of a personal reflection of the contrary emotions that exist within the poet. They are both helpful in examining the human struggle that one encounters when contemplating God.
Sonnet XIX" is significant because it brings fear to the forefront but it is not necessarily negative. Fear is a healthy proponent for loving God and it can bring individuals to a state of humility. The poet realizes this and understands that this fear will never go away because of the nature of God. The best way to deal with this is to simply accept it, as there is little man can do to undo his humanity. It is not something that will separate man from God's love as long as man realizes its importance.
Lawrence Beaston, "Talking to a Silent God: Donne's Holy Sonnets and the Via Negativa." Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature. 1999. GALE Resource Database. Site Accessed May 29, 2008. http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com.
Donne, John. "Sonnet XIX." Sonnet Central Online. Site Accessed May 31, 2008 http://www.sonnets.org/donne.htm#119
Stringer, Gary. The Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne.…[continue]
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