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Holy Sonnet 1(1609)

John Donne

Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?
MeterThou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?

Note on line 1: Ordinarily pronouns don’t take much stress, but from the first this holy sonnet fixes on the “Thou” it prays to, even to the extent of stressing “thy” in the second half of line 1. Donne knows very well that he himself is quite a piece of work. He also knows, however, that nothing can save him from himself (or his enemy the devil) but the fact that the workmanship in him is God’s. Hence the urgency of the stress on second-person pronouns here and throughout this sonnet.

Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste;
MeterRepair me now, for now mine end doth haste;
I run to death, and death meets me as fast,
MeterI run to death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday.
MeterAnd all my pleasures are like yesterday.
I dare not move my dim eyes any way,
MeterI dare not move my dim eyes any way,
Despair behind and death before doth cast
MeterDespair behind and death before doth cast
Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
MeterSuch terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
By sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh.
MeterBy sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh.
Only thou art above, and when towards thee
MeterOnly thou art above, and when towards thee
By thy leave I can look, I rise again;
MeterBy thy leave I can look, I rise again;
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me
MeterBut our old subtle foe so tempteth me
That not one hour myself I can sustain.
MeterThat not one hour myself I can sustain.
Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art,
MeterThy grace may wing me to prevent his art,

Note on line 13: Again, exceptional stress on the second-person pronoun “Thy,” to contrast God’s power to the feebler wiles of Satan in the last foot of this line, and the total helplessness of the human “I” in the line above.

And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.
MeterAnd thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.

Rhyme
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