This is one of the Holy Sonnets &, as ever with Donne, reading this poem is a physical, almost breathless experience. Look at the verbs he uses – batter, knock, break, bend, divorce, break, imprison, ravish. Donne’s relationship with God was not a polite, distant one, it was very physical & immediate. I watched a documentary a few months ago about Donne. It was presented by Simon Schama & Fiona Shaw read the poetry. Her reading of this poem was a highlight.
Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.