John Donne's "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God, For You" is an Italian sonnet written in iambic pentameter. The poem is about a man who is desperately pleading with his God to change him. He feels imprisoned by his own sinful nature and describes himself as betrothed to the "Enemy" of God, namely Satan. The speaker has a truly passionate longing to be absolutely faithful to his God, but at the same time is rendered hopeless by the reality that he cannot possibly achieve this on his own. In fact, he would have to be captured and completely made anew to ever find such faith.
The entire poem is driven by this desperate longing for renewal. The speaker seems to start with a request that illustrates his despondency simply because of its harshness. (He requests to have his heart battered.-ln 1) As he continues in prayer, the character becomes more distraught. He explains his feelings of total helplessness in the simile found in line five, where he compares himself to an usurped town. By line eleven he has professed his deep-rooted love for his God and his awareness that he will never be faithful to this love unless he is torn and broken and then made new.
In each breath released or word murmured by this character, the reader is perfectly aware that he is at the last of any strength he may have previously had. The speaker is quite aware that he is powerless on his own. He holds nothing back in this cry to his God for help, but instead is completely humbled by his sin. The words are full of a desperate longing to finally have a true, purely faithful love for his God. This desperation drives the entire poem from the very first word to the last.
The primary technical device in this poem is the use of contradicting ideas, or paradoxes. The speaker consistently asks his God to grant him a request that can be gained only by going in what seems to be the opposite direction. He requests to be...