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Freedom From Slavery

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Freedom from Slavery
Metaphysical poetry arose in the 17th century and was adopted by John Donne who wrote poems that featured topics such as love, life, and God. As a result, Donne had become the leading poet of Metaphysical poetry, but it was not soon after that that a poet named George Herbert associated himself with parallel metaphysical topics, God, most importantly. Both Herbert and Donne effectively depict the relationship and power dynamic between the creator and the creation. In Herbert’s “The Collar” and Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 14” the relationship between God and humans is expressed similarly. Herbert and Donne create speakers that experience a struggle with their faith in God. Both speakers give into the temptation of sin but eventually become devout to God in the end. Both poets use effective diction and portray their speakers with the notion of being enslaved to either God or Satan. They utilize the paradox that the only way that the speakers can set free from sin is if God takes action to make us his slaves. One must be enslaved to God in order to feel free.
Prior to reading “The Collar,” Herbert provides the audience with a title that supports the meaning of the poem. The title is important because it’s an image that symbolizes the position of the speaker. ‘The collar’ in this poem refers to the white band worn by priests in the clergy; therefore it is understood that the speaker is a priest. The poem presents a rather dramatic opening scene suggesting that the speaker is unhappy with his position as a priest. The speaker desires to leave the clergy and become a famous poet, and for that reason takes on violent action as he cries, “I struck the board, and cried, "No more;/ I will abroad” (Herbert lines 1-2). Impatient with his role as a priest, the speaker has thought of himself as a slave to the demanding Lord. He begins to regret devoting his life to the lord and wonders what it would have been like if he hadn’t. He compares his life to that of those humans who experience worldly pleasures. He desires to be a poet and believes he deserves the right to crown himself as a recognized and famous one. He wants to be able to understand this pleasure and be worthy of attention and fortune,
Have I no bayes to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted? All wasted (14-16)?
At this point, he has given into the temptation of sin and from this it is apparent that he is full of pride and envy. He is jealous of those who are pleasured and he is confident that his poetry is good enough to be famous. Herbert chooses to allow the speaker to complain more and more in order to explain how close the speaker is to leaving and living a life of what he thinks will give him freedom and pleasure. It seems as if nothing will change his mind, and given that free will exists, the speaker recognizes that he is free, but for some reason does not feel free. This is why he tries so hard to convince himself that to able to feel free he must leave the clergy and become a famous poet,
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit (4-6)? “I will abroad” is mentioned multiple times through out the poem. Herbert uses the device of repetition in order to make emphasis on how close the speaker is to following the path of Satan and becoming his slave. Herbert also introduces several types of imagery that reflect on this idea of the speaker being a slave. The collar not only suggests the speaker’s position in the church, but it also suggests a collar that humans use to strap around animals in order to control them. The idea of a slave is continued as Herbert says, “Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage, /Thy rope of sands”(21-22). The imagery of cages and ropes is effective because it supports this idea that the speaker feels God is using invisible control elements to enslave him. Little does the speaker know that he must be enslaved to God in order to feel free.
At the peak of his anger, the priest hears a voice calling “Childe,” the speaker replies “My lord” and in that moment the speaker submits himself to the lord. He recognizes his position as a priest and his relationship with God strengthens. God saves him from the temptation of sin by the sound of his voice, which allows the speaker to surrender to God. Instead of ultimately leaving the clergy and becoming a slave to Satan, the speaker has been saved by the words of God and continues to be a slave to him.
Similarly to “The Collar,” Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 14”opens with a sense of intensity also. The speaker appears angry and demands, “Batter my heart, three-person'd God…”(Donne line1). The speaker wants God to restore his soul, not gently, but belligerently. The speaker is struggling because he not sure if God loves him and this struggle uncovers a form of power dynamic between the speaker and God. The speaker wants God to have all the power, which is why the speaker demands him to belligerently and powerfully make him feel like he loves him. Donne’s use of powerful diction reveals this same idea. This powerful diction includes words such as, force, break, blow, and burn, “Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new” (4). These words mentioned suggest violence and the idea that the speaker is determined to be loved and be overpowered by God. The speaker recognizes that he is currently following the path of Satan and says to God, “Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
/But am betroth'd unto your enemy;”(9-10). In this quote Herbert introduces a strange metaphor. Donne compares the speaker’s relationship with Satan as a marriage and follows it by telling God, “Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again”(11). This metaphor clarifies how serious the relationship between the speaker and Satan has become due to the idea that marriage is considered the closest you can become in a relationship. The speaker realizes his position and demands the attention from God because he would rather be a prisoner of God than of Satan, “Take me to you, imprison me, for I, Except you enthrall me, never shall be free”(12-13). In this quote, the idea of slavery is finally introduced and the speaker solves his problem by asking God to enslave him. This quote is also paradoxical, because if he is a slave to God he is free and feels free. In the last quote, “Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me” (14), the speaker is telling God that he cannot be pure unless God rapes him, this enhances the idea of power dynamic because Donne is once again giving God the power to enslave him.
Both poems consist of powerful yet violent diction that represents the paradoxical relationship between the human and the divine. Both speakers ether experience life as a slave to God or life with the desire to experience it, ether way, God’s actions influence whether or not that experience is experienced. The priest is a slave to God and doesn’t feel free, therefore, God directly calls to him. This call reminds him that he is already free as a slave to God, and would rather be a slave to him than of to Satan. The speaker in “Holy Sonnet 14” is a slave to Satan and begs for God to take action, aggressively love him, and take him away from Satan, and like the priest, be a slave to God. Although Donne’s speaker demands to be loved by God while Herbert’s speaker demands to unleash himself from God, both poems do not introduce the idea of slavery until towards the end. They wait until the end of the poem to signify the importance of the constant paradox.
Whether one pushes against the love of God or wants his love more than anything, God will be there to enslave you, or in other words, allow you to feel free.

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