HOLY SONNET XII JOHN DONNE MARIE SINGLETON SECTION L3
Sonnet Annotation Lines 1-3 Why are we by all creatures waited on? Begins with a question. Presents the mood and theme for the sonnet. Why do the prodigal elements supply Prodigal elements – animals in nature Life and food to me, being more pure than I, Author is curious as to why humans were picked to be superior, considering their sinful nature
Sonnet Annotation 4-6 Simpler, and further from corruption? Questioning why animals are not put above humans, as they are “simpler, and further from corruption” Why brook'st thou, ignorant horse, subjection? Questions why we subject horses (and in essence, all creautres) to our will. Why dost thou, bull, and bore so seelily, Again, questions other animals as to their subjection.
Sonnet Annotation 7-9 Dissemble weakness, and by one man's stroke die, Asserts man’s dominance over creatures by exhibiting the ability to kill easily Whose whole kind you might swallow and feed upon? Questions why animals do not dominate humans because of their ingrown nature to kill and feed upon others. Most animals are larger and therefore should dominate humans. Weaker I am, woe is me, and worse than you, Author states that humans are, in fact, weaker than animals.
Sonnet Annotation 10-12 You have not sinned, nor need be timorous. States the pure nature of animals who have never committed or had the chance to commit sins. But wonder at a greater wonder, for to us Asks the creatures to ponder upon the one who made us (God). Created nature doth these things subdue Asserts that God made the creatures and therefore, chose the ones to subdue to humans.
Sonnet Annotation 13-14 But their Creator, whom sin nor nature tied, Believes God has no correlation to sin or nature, but is rather a distant, unconnected power. For us, His creatures, and His foes, hath died. Asserts that creatures, animals and humans alike, and those tempted by the Devil have been saved because God sent his son, Jesus to save all.
“He [Donne] marvels that the Creator of all creatures died for humans, the most corrupt of his creations.” This one line summation of the sonnet tells the reader almost all he or she would need to know. The sonnet is, in fact, about Donne’s awe that Jesus Christ died for such a corrupt and deceitful group of creatures when other creations are more worthy of his love and sacrifice. Bromberg, Howard. “Holy Sonnets.” Masterplots II: Christian Literature. Pasadena, California: Salem Press Inc. 2008. Accessed online: March 02, 2010. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=MOL9830002025&site=lrc-live.
Ezekiel 18:4. “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” In this quote from Ezekiel comes the idea that all who sin will die. This begs the questio – what becomes of animals after their death? They do not sin, as stated in Holy Sonnet 12, so do they experience the same afterlife as humans? Are animals more worthy of salvation and a pleasant afterlife than humans who sin? If so, then why did God send his Son to save humans? Is it so they can experience this same afterlife? Holy Bible. King James Edition.
The Algebra of Holy Sonnet 12. States that this sonnet holds nothing to be called “figurative”; rather, a straightforward sonnet Believes the first lines are a comparison of the three terms : Elements, Animals, Man States that it is “simple algebra” as to hierarchy Elements, Animals > Man; yet, Man > Elements, Animals Line 12 adds Created Nature to list bringing the hierarchy to Created Nature > Elements and Animals > Man By introducing a fifth term – God – to the mix, the hierarchy is yet again changed. God is higher than the highest, yet lower than the lowest. God > Created Nature > Elements and Animals > Man > God God created all and is superior, yet a servant, to all Fenner, Arthur. "Donne's 'Holy Sonnet XII'." Explicator 40.4 (1982): 14-15. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 2 Mar. 2010.
Original sin. It should be duly noted that many of Donne’s sonnets explore the theme of Original Sin. In this annotation, we will look at a sonnet closely related to Holy Sonnet XII. “It is because of this conviction of man’s unworthiness that the Holy Sonnets are so concerned with Original Sin.” “The final mystery of our salvation, the poet agrees, lies in the tremendous act of a “Creator, whom sin, nor nature tyed,” but who made of himself a blood sacrifice “for us, his Creatures, and his foes.” (Holy Sonnet XIII). This article explores how Donne uses Original Sin in his Holy Sonnets. In Holy Sonnet XII, Donne is perplexed as to how a race as sinful and corrupt as humans, can be dominant over pure and simple animals. This idea so perplexed Donne that it is explored throughout his series of Holy Sonnets and yet, never quite solved. It is something to be accepted and something to live with, not something that Donne has the power to change or the mental capacity to understand. Augustinian Spirituality and the Holy Sonnets of John DonnePatrickGrantELH, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Dec., 1971), pp. 542-561Published by: The Johns Hopkins University PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2872265
Pity for the Animals. Yetanother theme in Holy Sonnet XII is that of pity for the animals. Renaker takes Holy Sonnet IX: If poysonousmineralls, and if that tree, Whose fruit threw death on else immortall us, If lecherous goats, if serpents envious Cannot be damn'd; Alas; why should I bee? Why should intent or reason, borne in mee, Make sinnes, else equall, in mee, more heinous? And mercy being easie, and glorious To God, in his sterne wrath, why threatens hee? But who am I, that dare dispute with thee ?O God,Oh!ofthine only worthy blood, And my teares, make a heavenly Lethean flood, And drowne in it my sinnesblackememorie. That thou remember them,someclaime as debt, I thinke it mercy, if thou wilt forget.
Pity for the Animals (cont.) In the previous sonnet, Donne exhibits an anger and almost hatred toward animals for not being “damned” as he is. Animals who do not have to experience sin are considered “better off.” However, by Holy Sonnet XII, this hatred and anger becomes “concession and pity at their inability to the Incarnation.” Renaker, David. "Do Donne's Holy Sonnets Tell a Story?" The Atheist Seventeenth Century Website. N.p., 2002-2004. Web. 4 Mar. 2010.
Punctuation. Matters. “Do you think that the punctuation of the last line of this sonnet is merely an insignificant detail? The sonnet begins with a valiant struggle with death calling on all the forces of intellect and drama to vanquish the enemy. But it is ultimately about overcoming the seemingly insuperable barriers separating life, death and eternal life.” This quote serves to signify the importance of Donne’s punctuation in his sonnets. In Holy Sonnet XII, Donne uses semi-colons to separate his thoughts, yet keep them connected and organized. There are no exclamation marks – no hysterical emotion, but a tone of resignation and wonder. His language may be hard to follow for the modern analyzer : Seelily - sillily Margaret Edson, Wit: A Play. Faber & Faber. (1999) ISBN: 10-0571198775
No Drama. Compares Sonnets IV, XI, XII, XIII, XV, XVI. All lack dramatic impact. “Without that sense of crisis and disorder which is central to the other poems, there is a loss of immediacy. We might also feel that, while never complacent, the sonnets of this last gtoup [group] reflect more a crisis lived through and overcome than a crisis presently experienced in the act of writing. They are essentially contemplative in nature and their starting point is an image, a question or a stated truth which is posited in the first part of the poem and elaborated or answered in the second.” “There is an "audience" as present as in the secular poems. It might consist of listening Soul, it might even be bull, boar, and ignorant horse, as in XII, but the effect is constant: the speaker can answer, demonstrate and resolve as he could not when lacking both audience and authority.” Bellette, Anthony F. "Little Worlds Made Cunningly: Significant Form in Donne's 'Holy Sonnets' and 'Goodfriday, 1613'". Studies in Philology, Vol. 72, No. 3. University of North Carolina Press: 1975. 322-347.