3 Aug 2022


A comparison of "Batter my Heart, Three-Personed God" and "Easter Wings"

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Few topics fit poetry better that religion; issues of faith are by themselves poetic even before the poet gets to work on them. Religious faith is vast, complicated, and simple at the same time. It’s a relationship between the mortal man and the omnipotent God who wants a relationship with man, yet created in man the free will to decide whether or not to relate with God and how. The two poems, Batter my Heart, Three-Personed God by Reverend John Donne and Easter Wings by Reverend George Herbert are about religion and particularly Christianity and the walk if faith. They are both set by Anglican Priests in the early 17 th Century; hence, committed Christians in the main religion in the United Kingdom at that time: with such a similar setting, could the poems also be similar? 

Batter my Heart, Three-Personed God by Reverend John Donne 

Better my heart, Three-Personed God’ is a cry for help from a desperate soul, which desires to do right by God but has completely failed. It is very evident that this poem is not just written by a committed Christian but also a Christian minister; he not only desires to be a good Christian but also to be a good example to his parishioners yet in his eyes he is the worst of sinners and betrothed to the enemy. Finally, in a desperate move, he asks God to give up on the gentle approach and try extreme measures to subdue him and force him to be fully committed as a Christian. 

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Theme : The basic theme of this poem is the same as the story of the fall of man in the garden of Aden, man’s incapacity to hold on to his faith and do right by God. The speaker is a committed Christian and a church minister, by his vocation he is determined to be a good Christina but try as he might he has completely failed to adhere to his faith finds himself preferring the enemy. 

Tone : The tone of this poem rages from forceful: in an painful rather that aggressive way to pitiful, when read around, lines one and two will sound forceful and almost harsh as the words tend to indicate extreme measures, however, the extreme measures are towards the self and are therefore indicated painfully. At other times like line 7 through to 9, he is pitiful and pleading, trying to explain his weaknesses and seek understanding. 

Exceptional Lines in the Poem

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you : this first line in this poem is a forceful and confusing paradox, the heart is literary a vital organ and figuratively a gentle organ and the seat of emotions. On the other hand, the word batter from a 17 th century perspective refers to the use of a battering ram, a hideously powerful tool used to break down the walls of an enemy. This line sets the initial paradoxical theme of the poem: the failure of the normal and quest of the paranormal. 

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new :- This is line number 4 and an absolute paradox in itself. The adjectives break, blow, burn, and make cannot in any way seem to follow one another in a 17 th Century parlance. Blow, burn and make followed by new could be relevant from a blacksmiths perspective who is using bellows to create something new out of metal but how does break come in when a metal is heated to malleability. The metaphor in this line is wide, deep and abstract; perhaps holding deep secrets only understandable from e theological perspective. This line shows the confusion within the speaker. 

Structure and Form : This Sonnet employs an open form with an indefinite structure; some rhymes are employed in some parts of the poem but without a definite system with: the rhymes follow one another from line two to line 7 then break with line 9 seemingly rhyming with line 11 instead of line 10. Some of the strongest lines like 1, 10, and 13 do not contain any rhymes. 

Imagery : The Sonnet is full of imagery including: 

Line one creates a picture of a 17 th Century siege with great city doors and a battering ram. 

Line 4 brings about the image of a blacksmith creating a new object using bellows. 

Line 10 a wedding 

Line 12 a prison 

A combination of lines 13and 14 draws a picture of rape. 

Line 4 employs a clear caesura between the words Break and blow whose meanings cannot be construed into one. In general, the poem is rough without a definite flow with ideas that do not exactly flow as the speaker keeps going back to the beginning even after seemingly progressing. Going back to the problem and re-seeking a solution from a different perspective. 

Easter Wings by Reverend George Herbert: 

The ‘Eastern wings’ by George Herbert is a twenty line Rhymed Stanza poem, created in the shape of wings that make an interesting loud reading that sounds like a cascade. 

Theme : The theme in this poem is that of victory of the Christian’s faith despite challenges and evil. This is as opposed to the Sonnet whose theme shown a triumph of evil over Christian faith thus creating Desperation. 

Tone : this poem flows with a victorious tone: the magnitude of evil the wing shaped stanzas move in, only augments the victory as the wings spread out. The happy sounds of the Victory of Christina faith in the speaker dominate to the end. This is the exact opposite of the desperate sonnet where the speaker seems to be trampled upon by the enemy and desperately seeking help from God before he gives up on his faith and married the enemy. 

Exceptional Lines in the Poem: 

Line 11: My tender age in sorrow did beginner : The general literary opinion of an infant is a happiness and bliss, however the speaker says that his infancy was full of sorrow which is an absolute paradox. 

Line 20: Affliction shall advance the flight in me : this seems to portray affliction, a negative thing giving rise to flight, definitely a positive thing in the speakers life, either this is a great paradox or an kind of metaphor only understandable from a theological perspective and mirrors the position in line 4 of the Sonnet. 

Structure and Form : This poem is a closed form rhymed stanza whose structure is carefully designed to create the physical image of wings which also corresponds with the title of the poem. The first and last lines of each of the two stanzas is the longest, reducing gradually to the middle line then growing to the last line. This creates a melodic loud readability that echoes the circumstances expounded by the speaker at each section of the poem. 

Unlike the Sonnet, this Poem is straightforward without imagery but employing metaphors and euphemism instead. Words like wealth and store being a euphemism for a good Christian life while words like Decaying more and more speak of moral corruption in sin. 


The two poems demonstrate similarity in that the two speakers are Anglican ministers from the United Kingdom on the early 17 th Century both speaking about their walk of faith are different in form and structure but mostly in theme. The speaker in the sonnet is at the point of giving up his faith, the challenges for the enemy as so great that he is ready to permanently join the enemy and marry him. The same challenges from the enemy have faced the speaker in ‘Eastern Wings’ but unlike the speaker in the sonnet, this one has seen victory of the Christina faith to the extent that at the end, he dares affliction to come, since it only brings good into his life. 


Cape, S. H. (1989). The Poet's Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices. Library Journal, 114(12), 73. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). A comparison of "Batter my Heart, Three-Personed God" and "Easter Wings".


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