Study Guide

At the round earth's imagined corners (Holy Sonnet 7) Tough-O-Meter

By John Donne

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(5) Tree Level

In this poem, you have to look at the big picture. In the first eight lines of the poem, the speaker calls for the Last Judgment. In the last six lines, he changes his mind and decides to repent instead. The Biblical allusions and religious symbolism would have been easier for people in Donne's own time to understand, because he lived in a more exclusively Christian culture. When you zoom in to look at certain lines and phrases, however, the poem can get more complicated. We think the most difficult line is line 10: "For, if above all these, my sins abound." What does "these" refer to? Sins? Kinds of death? Kinds of dead people? In a Donne poem, untangling the meaning of his symbols and images is where the challenge and the real fun begins.

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