Study Guide

Batter my heart (Holy Sonnet 14) Warfare

By John Donne

Warfare

Warfare makes up the major extended metaphor of Holy Sonnet 14, as the speaker presents himself as a captured fortress city. He calls upon God to storm the walls and retake the city. What's curious about this metaphor is that, if the speaker is the city and God is the attacker, God is going to have to do some major damage to the speaker in order to save him. Questions of what it means to be an attacker or a victim dovetail with the notions of rape and ravishment in the poem.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Does the speaker assign a value judgment to violence and warfare? Are they good or bad things?
  2. Who's in charge of this fortified town? What can that tell us about the poem as a whole?
  3. Why does imprisonment seem like such a bad thing in the beginning of the poem, but such a desirable thing at the end?

Chew on This

Holy Sonnet 14 can be seen as a reworking of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, as the speaker begs forgiveness to ward off the destruction of the two cities.

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