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Sunday, February 26, 2006

John Donne (Poem and Analysis)

I love John Donne. This is a sovereign grace poem.

John Donne
Oh My Black Soul

Oh my black soul! now art thou summoned
By sickness, death's herald, and champion;
Thou art like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turn to whence he is fled;
Or like a thief, which till death's doom be read,
Wisheth himself delivered from prison,
But damned and haled to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack;
But who shall give thee that grace to begin?
Oh make thy self with holy mourning black,
And red with blushing, as thou art with sin;
Or wash thee in Christ's blood, which hath this might
That being red, it dyes red souls to white.

The first thing we need to realize is that he personifies his Soul and then proceeds to address it in the poem. The sickness he speaks of is not physical but rather is defined by the sin he descibes with simile in the next few lines. He compares his Soul to a traitor who fears to return to the town against which he commited treason. This town is God. I think the treason part is easy. This is an appropriate thing to fear, isn't it? God's wrath is very terrible. He also claims that his Soul is a thief who, when given the death sentence, longs to remain in prision. He is no fool who prefers the judgement of man to the judgement of God. It reminds me of those who "called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!'" (Revelation 6:16)

The couplet before the final four lines speaks to that glorious truth of God's irresistible call and our willful repentence. He says, "God's grace is endless to those who love him, but how can I love him without him pouring his grace on me?" For, "where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:20-21)

The last bit is great. It speaks of sorrow over sin, shame of sin, the cleansing blood of Jesus, and the end product of our souls being made righteous before God.

I was encouraged to post some more poetry after Mike Haykin posted this.
I agree with him.

6 Comments:

Blogger kerux said...

A little Haykin nudge and you get to posting? That is all it took? My, my.
Well, consider this a shove!
We need smart people like you to introduce us to works like this and help us understand them. It is a serious loss to the church that so much excellent literature has been "left behind."
Why, you could even bring one of your nifty little poems to church one day... say for a fellowship lunch time when there is opportunity for testimonies and such. Read a snippet and explain it and how it has increased your delight in God!

"Thus, I throw the gauntlet
Before you, "son of man"
Not so that you may flaunt it
But so you'll show you can
Divide a phrase and draw out Truth
From writings by a Donne or Ruth!"

8:17 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Wow...Pastor you are quite the poet!

9:41 PM  
Blogger JLF said...

Hey, how do you pronounce this guy's name again?

1:26 PM  
Blogger Aimee said...

Donne is (as in "Dinner's done!") great - understands the metaphysical so well- try George Herbert, here's a samplng:
Love II
Immortal Heat, O let thy greater flame
Attract the lesser to it; let those fires,
Which shall consume the world, first make it tame;
And kindle in our hearts such true desires,
As may consume our lusts, and make thee way.
Then shall our hearts pant thee; then shall our brain
All her invention on thine Altar lay,
And there in hymns send back thy fire again:
Our eyes shall see thee, which before saw dust;
Dust blown by wit, till that they both were blind:
Thou shalt recover all thy goods in kind,
Who wert disseized by usurping lust:
All knees shall bow to thee; all wits shall rise,
And praise him who did make and mend our eyes.

Thanks for the refreshment Son of Man.

2:17 PM  
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