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Themes

Humility? More like arrogance. Who does this speaker think he is, ordering the angels to blow their mighty trumpets, rearranging dead people, and even asking God to be his personal tutor? We still think that the speaker is aiming for humility, but a kind of humility that is different from the modern stereotype of religious humility as passive and guilt-ridden. Although his requests to God and the angels seem presumptuous, throughout the sonnet the speaker demonstrates his knowledge and adherence to scripture. Does Donne show that you can be humble without renouncing your pride in your own intelligence?

Questions About Humility

  1. Do you see any sign that the speaker thinks it is wrong to be proud of his intelligence? Is he proud in this way?
  2. How would you define humility? Does this poem challenge your notion of humility or reinforce it?
  3. Why doesn't the speaker know if his "sins abound" or not?
  4. Why is repentance so difficult that it must be taught by God?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In order to show repentance, the speaker must acknowledge his sins by repeating them in verse at the beginning of the poem. Paradoxically, his arrogance in calling for the Last Judgment is a sign that he recognizes his arrogance.

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