Summary, theme and Analysis of the poem “Batter My Heart” by Donne

The poem Batter My Heart has been taken from Donne’s Holy Sonnets. This poem has occupied a prominent position in Donne’s religious or devotional poetry. The title of the poem is very significant because it suggests the theme of the poem, which is a passionate and forceful appeal to the Almighty to take complete possession of the poet’s heart. The intensity of the poet’s feeling has been adequately brought out by the word ‘batter’. He thinks that he is a hardened sinner and that is why he is vehemently and persistently prays to the Christian Trinity-God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost to purify or purge him so that he can come back to God once again.

The poem faithfully records the poet’s fervent and earnest plea to God to help him in the process of regeneration and amendation. The poem also expresses the poet’s heart-rending agony, which emerges out of his sheer inability to rescue himself from this hellish state of mind. The poet tells that as he is a hard-core sinner, mild procedures will not work with him. God should use harsh and rough techniques to reshape him, overpower him and remould him totally and completely. Drastic action taken by God against the poet will change him radically.

The poem is one of the prominent religious or devotional poems of John Donne. Here the poet has surrendered himself to God so that he can emancipate or liberate himself entirely from the crimes and sins that he has committed. The poem has superbly projected the tensions, oscillations, vacillations, prayers, desires of a devotee or a disciple who is seeking God’s benedictions and blessings to go out of the trap laid down by Satan, the Devil.

The poet has depicted his deep anguish. He has tried to release himself from the baneful impact of the Devil, but all his sincere efforts have been made futile and meaningless. Then he has requested God to save him. The poem also shows an intense psychological conflict that was going on within the poet himself. A kind of extreme inner dilemma has been brought out by the poet’s subtle ironic and paradoxical touches.

The use of a sensual relationship for the sake of holy transformation is very frequent in the poem. The expressions-‘Imprison me’, ‘ravish me’- demonstrate the intensity of the poet’s feelings who wish to be possessed by God. The poem is replete with plenty of paradoxes. The poet’s relationship with God has been expressed through several paradoxes. He thinks that he can only rise if the Almighty overthrows him; he can be free only when God will imprison him, and he can be chaste and holy only if he is ravished by the Omnipotent. The analogy or simile of a usurped town by a lawful person is entirely appropriate and significant.

Similarly, the usurped body who has the Devil should be rescued by God. Freedom and purity will come only through divine consummation. It sounds discordant in the entire scheme of the poem.

The idea of violence also runs throughout the whole poem like a refrain. The hammering of the tinker or the blacksmith is immediately followed by the capture and siege of the town. The marriage is succeeded by ravishment. There is a constant comparison of the secular love of divine love. John Donne’s artistry is well expressed in his ventilation of physical love which is used to portray platonic love. The use of sensual imagery cannot be considered incongruous and discordant because, in the final analysis, it conveys the sincerity and confessional frankness of the poet as a true servant of God.