A Hymn to God the Father — Brilliant Metaphysical Poem

A Hymn to God the Father“, also titled “To Christ”, is a divine poem written in 1623 by English poet and clergyman John Donne.

A Hymn to God the Father — Three Stanzas of Six Lines Each

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 and Meaning

The poem begins with Donne asking God whether He will forgive the sins committed even before his birth, referring to the doctrine of Original sin (Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden was passed down to all humanity.) That pardoned, he adds that God’s task is not complete for there is more to be forgiven. The speaker tells of how he spends most of his life in sin. God knows the poet’s run through sin is not done because he wants to be a sinner. He deplores his actions but is unable to stop.

He amplifies in the second stanza of the poem “A Hymn to God the Father” that besides there are the sins others were tempted to sin and his sins of backsliding are also included. This time the question ends with the revelation that the speaker has forced others into sin. He created the opportunity, or the door, for them to walk through making it easier for them to go against God than it had been previously.

In the final stanza of the poem “A Hymn to God the Father,” Donne accuses himself of the sin of fear that he will still be lost unless God confirms His promise that His Beloved Son will shine upon him at his death. If God were to do so, and make the speaker feel as if Jesus is with him all the time, he could live a happy life. He needs God to resolve all of his troubles.

The last two lines of each stanza of the poem “A Hymn to God the Father” are mostly the same. Here, he tells God that when he finishes helping and forgiving sins there will be “more” to do. His sins, and those of the world, go on indefinitely.

A Brief Biography of John Donne – Author of A Hymn to God the Father

A Hymn to God the Father - John Donne

Often considered the greatest love poet in the English language, John Donne wrote the poem “A Hymn to God the Father” after he had recovered from a serious bout of the “spotted fever” which gripped London in 1623.. He was one of the most influential poets of the Renaissance. A scholar, soldier, and, secretary preeminent, John Donne was a poet of the Metaphysical school and dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London (1621–31). Donne is also noted for his religious verse and treatises and for his sermons, which rank among the best of the 17th century.

Metaphysical Poetry is a highly intellectualized poetry marked by bold and ingenious conceits, paradoxical images, complexity and subtlety of thought, inventive syntax, imagery from art, philosophy, and religion using an extended metaphor known as a conceit, and often using deliberate harshness or rigidity of expression.

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