Hymne to God my God, in My Sicknesse The poem is probably written late in Donne’s life, definitely following his conversion to the Anglican faith. Donne seems to be dying of some incurable illness that the doctors do not know how to cure. He begins by saying that he is coming a holy room, possibly in his funeral. Upon entering this holy room, probably a sanctuary, he joins up with the saints of old which he hopes to join. However, he must tune the Instrument here at the dore before entering into the place of the saints.
The capitalizing of instrument possibly indicates that the instrument is not necessarily a musical instrument, but more an instrument of the faith, possibly even Donne’s own body which is God’s instrument used to administer the faith. The second stanza paraphrases the doctors vain attempts to cure him before he dies. He compares his body to the stars because the physicians strive to understand his body just as the cosmographers explore and hope to gain insight into the stars.
Donne writes that this is my South-west discoverie, probably referring to the Strait of Magellan, known for its tumultuous winds. Further evidence is given by his saying that by these streights to die, indicating that the tumultuous winds of life will eventually overwhelm his frail body. However, instead of fearing the winds and tumultuous seas, Donne welcomes them as the entrance into a more peaceful place. After passing through the Strait of Magellan, one comes to the Pacific ocean which is very calm and nice rest following the Strait. Donne even questions whether the west can hurt him. The answer is obviously no because if the Strait could not kill him, then the calm ocean will have no chance. However, Donne recognizes that the Pacific Ocean is not his home, but he does not fully know where his true home is. He questions whether Jerusalem is where he ought to live. Donne says that in order to find a final destination, he must pass through many straits, indicating that in order to obtain heaven, one must first pass through the miseries and hard times of life. Donne says that whether he settles in the land of Japhet(Yafet), Cham, or Sem(Shem), he is going to suffer through many ordeals, but that once he puts his feet on land, he is going to praise God, just as Noah did after the flood. Japhet, Cham, and Sem were the three sons of Noah who, according to Jewish and Christian tradition, were the beginnings of the three major civilizations of the early earth; Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley. Donne then states that modern society always makes Israel seem like such a promised land with Calvary, Christ’s cross, the garden of Eden, and paradise always wrapped up in a tight bundle that we call Israel, but in reality, Israel is no better than anywhere else. Donne makes his life a symbol of the places of earth. He is composed of both faith and sin, represented by Israel and England respectfully. Therefore both parts of Adam, both the faith and sin are the same in Donne as they were in the beginning of the world. The first Adam represents the hard work that one has to do in order spread the word of the Lord and the last Adam represents the fight that every Christian must face in order to spread the faith. In the final stanza, Donne discusses his entrance into paradise. He pictures God as being wrapped in a purple robe. Purple represents sanctity and regalness since it is the color of kings, especially the eternal king. Donne also wants to take on the crown of thrones so that he may feel the pain that one must feel in order to truly preach the word of God. Ultimately, he hopes that others to whom he preached will be received by God the same way he was received.
BibliographyHymne to God My God, in My SicknesseBible
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