Study Guide

A Hymn to God the Father Fate and Free Will

By John Donne

Fate and Free Will

The speaker of "A Hymn to God the Father" believes that he can't help but sin, and that even before his birth he was already guilty. He asks God to forgive him, but he also tells God that there's more sin coming. It seems that mankind has no choice but to be sinful; they can only wind up in heaven if God intervenes. It sounds like he thinks our fate is pretty much decided before we are born. Um, yay?

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. Is the speaker fated to be a sinner, or did he choose to sin? Where in the poem does he seem resigned to his fate as a sinner?
  2. How does the speaker demonstrate mankind's free will?Ā 
  3. Whose actions does the speaker think determine our fate: ours or God's? How do you know?

Chew on This

The speaker briefly had enough willpower to resist some of his sins, but ultimately caved in. He seems to blame human nature rather than himself for this failure of will (what a cop-out).

The speaker's salvation is entirely in God's hands. The poem shows how we puny humans are unable to determine our own fate.