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Holy Sonnet X discussion page

Page history last edited by Mr. Mullen 11 years, 6 months ago

 

back to 17th century poetry

 

As an Anglican priest and theologian, Donne was intimately familiar with the Bible. "Holy Sonnet X" is based on 1 Corinthians 15.50-58, an apostrophe to Death personified, whose power has paradoxically been destroyed through death itself, namely the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. The text of the passage is below:

 

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

 

the sonnet is arranged like a philosophical disputation addressed to an opponent

the word order of many sentences is inverted

the diction is formal, even stylized

some words are missing

the sentences seem to be intentionally complex

apostrophe

personification

allusion

paradox

 

Sonnet X literary devices

allusion:
a reference to mythology, scripture, or another work of art

personification:
giving human qualities to inhuman things-- animals, objects, ideas, forces

apostrophe:
a poem that directly addresses a person or personified concept as if it were present listening to the speaker

paradox:
a contradictory statement that is surprisingly true on a metaphorical or (often) mystical level

 

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