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“A Hymn To God The Father” is a poem written by eminent poet John Donne. It is a beautiful poem that brings out the poet’s love and faith in God.
About the Poet:
John Donne (1572-1631) was a prominent English poet and scholar. A cleric in the Church of England, he was considered the greatest of the metaphysical poets at that time. Famous works of his include ‘The Flea’, ‘Holy Sonnets’, and ‘The Sun Rising’.
This poem consists of 3 stanzas consisting of 6 lines each. It is in the form of a dramatic monologue addressing God “The Father”.
Analysis and Summary:
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.
The poem begins with a direct address to a “thou” who isn’t mentioned by name. The persona asks this person if they would “forgive that sin where I begun”, even though it was done “before” his time. He states that he “deplore”s this sin, even though it is why he “do run still”. He ends the stanza by stanza by stating he has “more” sins too to confess.
From contextual reference, it can be gleaned that the persona is referring to God. He also makes a direct reference to the Original Sin by Adam and Eve here. By seeking forgiveness and repentance for a sin he did not commit originally but is aware that is the reason he exists, Donne brings out the nature of mankind to sin and err. This is further reinstated when he states “For I have more”, implying that Man continues to sin from the Dawn of Time and will continue to do so as it is in his very nature– he also, however, is aware of the same and is penitent towards God. The word “done” can be interpreted as a play on the poet’s own name Donne; so can the word “more” imply his wife Anne 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.
Here, the persona is further asking God if He could forgive not just his own sins but those of others he encouraged too. He also asks God if He would forgive him if he were to commit the same sin he “shun/ A year or two” again in “a score”.
This stanza is an extension of the previous stanza where the persona lists the endless things he seeks God’s forgiveness and mercy for. Mankind’s tendency to not just sin but sin over and over is highlighted here. The lines “When thou hast done, thou hast not done,/ For I have more” reappear as a refrain here– the added emphasis could be to shed light on Donne’s own secret marriage to his love Anne More and the resultant dire consequences not just for himself but all those who were involved in the same. The sin he seeks forgiveness for could be for having “More” and making others commit the same sin for it.
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.
Here, the poet states that he has “a sin of fear”. He fears that he would “perish on the shore”. However, he swears in the name of God that at his death, his “Son” would continue to “shine” and this thought allows him to “fear no more”.
In this stanza, Donne not only brings out the depth of the love he has for God but also for His Son Jesus Christ. His fear of death and not being one with God is driven away by his faith in Christ– unlike the previous stanzas where he fears when God “hast not done”, he “fear(s) no more” as he firmly asserts that “thou hast done”.
This is a deeply spiritual poem. It brings out the unshakable faith Donne has for God, one that transcends above all in the world.