"At the round earth's imagined corners" is a fantasy of the Last Judgment. In Christian theology, the world as we know it has a definite end point: the Apocalypse. All the people who have died throughout time must wait until the Apocalypse to receive their final judgment. It is at this point when the good are separated from the bad. Christianity teaches that a person can always ask God for forgiveness, but once the Last Judgment comes, the opportunity is lost. The speaker calls off his fantasy when he begins to worry that maybe he hasn't repented enough.
Questions About Justice and Judgment
How many different categories of people are listed in the poem? How are these groups to be judged?
Do you think the system of judgment described in this poem is fair?
How would you paraphrase line 10: "For, if above all these, my sins abound"?
Explain how learning to repent is like having a pardon signed in your name.
Why is it significant that the speaker's pardon is signed in blood?
Chew on This
Donne describes three classes of people in this poem: the obviously damned, the obviously saved, and people, like himself, who are need of repentance in order to be saved, but who do not fall into one of the obvious cases.
The speaker's admission that his own sins might be the greatest of all takes advantage of a classic Christian trope in which one shows humility by pretending to be the lowest of the low.