Analysis of Batter My Heart by John Donne


John Donne was an English poet, scholar, soldier and secretary born into a Catholic family, a remnant of the Catholic Revival, who reluctantly became a cleric in the Church of England. His poetical works are noted for their metaphorical and sensual style and include sonnets, love poems, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs, and satires. He is also known for his sermons.

The poem is the fourteenth in a collection of Holy Sonnets written by Donne. This describes the complex relationship of the narrator with religion. He desires the god to enter his heart aggressively and make him new.



Title: Though is introduced as a holy sonnet the title is paradoxical as it uses the word batter the heart. Batter is associated with a Medieval battle ram which is used to break the gates of fortresses during a battle.   

Form: the traditional Italian sonnet form. This traditional form and style, introduced by Petrarch, consists of an octave and a sestet.

Meter and rhyme: as rhythm and structural patterns that are influenced by the Shakespearean sonnet form. The Holy Sonnet XIV has an ABBAABBACDCDEE rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter. (deviation from traditional rhyme scheme of Petrarchan sonnet)

Tone: forceful

Theme: love, religion, and violence.

Narration: first person, the narrator may be the poet himself or a universal figure. 



Deep-end Analysis


In the first part of the sonnet, the speaker commands the god to enter his heart by forceful means as his cup is filled with ideologies which hinder him to accept god as a truth. It is notable that though this is a plea to the god, the speaker’s words do not resemble any reverence and they are seemingly violent.


Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,

Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end.

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.


symbol: heart (heart symbolizes the faculty of emotions; the speaker reveals his sensual necessity of religion to fulfill himself whereas his brain is preoccupied with rationales which forbid him to accept god.)

apostrophe: The poem is a direct address to the god. However, it is like a prayer or monologue where God does not respond.

metaphor: batter my heart (he considers his heart to be a fortress which needs to be opened using a forceful mean like a battering ram opening a gate of a fortress)

Paradox: The way the poet addresses to the god is paradoxical throughout the poem. Usually a psalm should be more reverent and like a hymn in tone, but the words and the tone the poet maintains are effectively-contradictory to show his dire necessity to be cleansed by the god)

word pun: admit/ reason (admit has two meanings that is allow to enter or believe in existence/ reason means the cause or rational thinking)

simile: like an usurp’d town (he compares himself to be a town controlled by somebody else)

repetition: and (shows the urgency)

allusion: three-personed God (God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost - the Holy Trinity)

alliteration/consonance: break, blow, burn

assonance: your force to break, blow/ oh, to no end

caesura: and bend/ your force…

Inversion/chiasmus: Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end. / Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, (two parallel inverted sentences)

enjambment: run on line can be seen throughout the poem


The speaker demands the God to use force to enter his heart and mend it; So, he can cleanse himself. He pleas to use force to enter his heart as he cannot do it by himself: as he thinks his life is controlled by evil and his own rational thinking forbids him to accept god’s existence. Therefore, he wants god to destroy his-self completely and make him a new person using the forceful means.



In the sestet the poet reasons out why he desperately needs god to cleanse him. He expresses his spiritual love towards the god and his inability to join god as his life is preoccupied with evil(Satan) and he pleas god to enter his heart aggressively and imprison him in god’s faith.


Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,

But am betroth’d unto your enemy:

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me



allusion: enemy (Satan) …break that knot again (Genesis: the first book of the Old Testament: tells of Creation; Adam and Eve; the Fall of Man; Cain and Abel; Noah and the flood…etc.) 

metaphor: ravish me (though it has erotic connotation it implies that he demands to cleanse his heart by means of force) betroth’d unto your enemy (his life is immersed in sins/evil)

caesura: …for, I,/Except you…


The speaker expresses his spiritual love towards the god and he wants god to save him from the evil and preserve his soul by cleansing. He reveals how his life is corrupted and the need of a forceful mean to set him free. The poet uses erotic words to describe his necessity to enter the god’s garden of love. Though confusing, it is one of the unique features of Metaphysical poetry to use paradoxical sentences and Metaphysical conceits to project a certain idea in a different way.

The arc of this poem, follows an increasingly passionate plea for God to spiritually and forcefully return to the speaker. The speaker boldly commands God to force his way into the speaker's soul, roughly seducing the speaker in what is an explicit comparison to sexual love.

Due to the Metaphysical structure of the poem, it may be hard to read but hope you got the gist of the poem. The poem carries much deeper connotations which I tried to put in a simplified manner. If you want a deeper explanation, I recommend you to visit and search for the analysis.

What is your idea of the poem? please leave a comment to add more points to the post. Please share the post if you find it useful.  



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