A Hymn to God the Father By John Donne Summary BA English Semester II BBMKU & VBU University. It is a helpful note for the Students. We special focus on the syllabus of Binod Bihari Mahto Koylanchal University Dhanbad and Vinoba Bhave University Hazaribag.
A Hymn to God the Father
Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun, Which was my sin, though it were done before? Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run, And do run still, though still I do deplore? When thou hast done, thou hast not done, For I have more. Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won Others to sin, and made my sin their door? Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score? When thou hast done, thou hast not done, For I have more. I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun My last thread, I shall perish on the shore; But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore; And, having done that, thou hast done; I fear no more.
A Hymn to God the Father Summary
The poem, Hymn to God the Father, acts like a watershed in the religious poetry of John Donne. It marks a general departure from his usual religious poetry in that the poet has achieved the much-required sense of security and joy in his prayers to God. Before this poem we find the poet, in most of his religious poems, wading through the maze of encouragements of the physical life which runs along with the attempt to gain divine grace. But in this poem we find him in an entirely different spiritual and moral aura, breathing something bracing, in a dark and gloomy setting of vile passion. The hymn epitomizes the peace that the poet finds in this perilous journey through the dark night of the soul. It was written by the poet during his illness in 1623. The hymn contains three stanzas which are closely woven with other. In each of the stanzas, the poet entreats god to grant him forgiveness for the sins he has committed. In the first two stanzas, we feel a sense of doubt in the poet’s mind that all of his sins would not be forgiven, but eventually, we see this doubt melting away by the end of the third stanza and he gains faith in God’s magnanimity. The poet is aware of the fact that the traitor of the God that makes him commit the sin resides inside him and perhaps this is the reason for his wavering and it may prompt him to get strayed from the path of God.
We can very well sense that the main and basic cause of Donne’s vexation of spirit is that he is unable to free himself from his sins and surrender to God. He has committed many sins and finds himself unable to ask for forgiveness for every sin at once. Also, he is not sure whether he will be able to refrain from the sins in future or not. Poet finds it somewhat ridiculous to sin every day and ask for forgiveness for his sins. Donne makes this point quite clear in line like:
Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,From the 1st stanza of “A Hymn to God the Father”
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
In these lines, we can very clearly feel the warm impulses tugging at the soul of the poet. It is the rhetorical elaboration of antithesis that makes the impulse clear. The antithesis in “When thou hast done, thou hast not done” let us peep into the state of the sinner in regard to God. God grants him forgiveness for his one sin as he says, “Thou has done”, but when he goes again to ask for the same favour from God he feels that God has not granted him forgiveness for his sin thus we have pot saying, “thou hast not done”. The various pushes and pulls of the poet’s internal conflict are depicted perfectly through the antithesis of these lines. In the first line of the stanza, we see the poet making a vivid and life-like presentation of his ripped-apart consciousness.
The first stanza of the hymn presents the contradiction and the duality of his conscious state in a new dimension. There is an impulse in the poet’s mind to relish the lustful thoughts but at the same time, he also has an impulse for getting deprived of passion and attains the ultimate faith in God.
In the second stanza, we see the poet deviate from the path he was following in the first stanza. Though the prayer still continues, what makes it different is the poet talking about his abetting others to commit a sin. We are also told about a sin that he might have committed some time ago, probably a year or two. Though the poet has committed various sins one thing that saves him prevarication and equivocation is that he does not bear any intentions of concealing his sins and thus puts himself in front of God as he is, of course in hope of getting forgiven.
In the third stanza, the poet provides us with the solution to the conflict that has been going on in his mind in the previous two stanzas. This conflict was strictly about the numerous sins he committed and a profound pleading for the forgiveness of his sins. Here in this stanza poet finally attains faith in God and feels that God is now satisfied with his penitence and that his all sins will be forgiven. He hopes that his soul will be illuminated with the divine grace of God. Now the poet feels the terror of death. All of a sudden he becomes aware of the inevitability of death, this feeling makes him imbued with anguish and he says:
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spunfirst line of 3rd stanza of “A Hymn to God the Father”
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
The fear of death eventually melts as the poet becomes sure of the abounding love of God.