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Holy Sonnet VIII: If Faithful Souls Be Alike Glorified Analysis



Author: Poetry of John Donne Type: Poetry Views: 368

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If faithful souls be alike glorified

As angels, then my fathers soul doth see,

And adds this even to full felicity,

That valiantly I hells wide mouth o'erstride:

But if our minds to these souls be descried

By circumstances, and by signs that be

Apparent in us, not immediately,

How shall my mind's white truth by them be tried?

They see idolatrous lovers weep and mourn,

And vile blasphemous conjurers to call

On Jesus name, and Pharisaical

Dissemblers feigne devotion. Then turn,

O pensive soul, to God, for he knows best

Thy true grief, for he put it in my breast.






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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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A recurrent obsession under the Tudors (and for mos of the seventeenth century) were the advantages and disadvantages of a democratic system against an autocratic one. The Tudor state had elements of both:- the king was absolute head of the state, but he was assumed to govern by consent (of parliament, of the people, ....).
Donne is aware that the Christian Heaven is an absolute autarchy, and often uses the idea in his poems.
The other main idea here is that Donne himself is a great sinner (he had lived a life of considerable abandon, particularly of sexual promiscuity, as a younger man). Again, this is an idea Donne references regularly.
If faithful souls be alike glorified
As angels, then my father\'s soul doth see,
And adds this even to full felicity,
That valiantly I hell\'s wide mouth o\'erstride.
If all of the Saved have equal status in Heaven (this is a common protestant idea) then my father in heaven (this can mean either God, or Donne\'s actual father - who is now a saved soul. Donne intends to leave this ambiguity open) can see what a good boy I must be to still choose The Lord, even though I have come so close to the temptations of Hell.
But if our minds to these souls be descried
By circumstances, and by signs that be
Apparent in us not immediately,
How shall my mind\'s white truth by them be tried ?
But if the souls of the saved can only see our souls as clearly as we see them on earth, how will they realise that I might be good on the inside, however I appear on the outside?
They see idolatrous lovers weep and mourn,
And vile blasphemous conjurers to call
On Jesu\'s name, and pharisaical
Dissemblers feign devotion.
Since if the saved see only as we do, then they will know that lovers - who care only for each other - still complain as if they loved God; they can see that people who call on God\'s name might do it because they love god, but might also do it as part of some Satanic ritual; and they know that a lot of religious worship is plain hypocrisy.
(By this point in the poem, Donne has rejected the idea of being tried by a jury of his peers - the already saved. They are as open to misprision as any ordinary jury would be).
Then turn,
O pensive soul, to God, for He knows best
Thy grief, for He put it into my breast.
So, soul, you should rely only on God the Almighty. He knows what is truly in your heart, since He put it there.

| Posted on 2012-01-09 | by a guest




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