Tag Archives: #poetry

Batter my heart, three-person’d God

Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne is probably best known for his poem “Death Be Not Proud” which is an incredibly triumphant sounded about the power of the soul over death. There’s a great play called Wit by Margaret Edson that centers a modern scholar’s death and her relationship to this poem.  Donne is also the poet who gave us the phrases “no man is an island” and “for whom the Bell tolls” and “catch a falling star” (which according to Wikipedia, who I have zero faith in, inspired Neil Gaiman to write Stardust).

Donne, was born in 1572, was notorious ladies man until he married Anne More when he was about thirty. This marriage was disastrous for the couple as both of their fathers disapproved of the match; Donne was actually imprisoned for this “illicit marriage.” Shortly afterward, the marriage was proved valid, but Donne had lost his job, his station, and his faith in the Catholic Church.

But he never lost his faith in God (eventually he wrestled through his self-doubt and grief over Anne’s death to become an Episcopal priest). His early poems which were almost entirely romantic often used sacred imagery; while his later poems love letters to God. Many scholars criticized Donne’s poetry for mixing the sensual love with sacrosanct and I suspect most were not published until after his death so he would not be persecuted as a heretic.

My favorite of Donne’s poems is Sonnet 14: Batter my Heart, because of the mixture of violent sexual imagery with a divine prayer. While it’s not a love poem, per say, I referenced this poem in Uninvited Love and figured I would include it here.

The sonnet begins with an appeal to a gentle God to stop being so kind. This is not a speaker who wants his faith tested, but one who wants the divine to shatter him and create him again stronger and more secure in his faith. In order to stand, he begs to be thrown to the ground and broken.

In the next phrase, God’s enemy has captured this poet’s reason and pillaged and plundered him like a “usurp’d town.” He appeals to God to save him from this marriage to the Devil by asking the divine to steal him back, enslave him, and rape him.  It’s one of my favorite lines in poetry:

“Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.”

 

Every Romance Author Should Read Rumi

Come, seek, for search is the

foundation of fortune: every

success depends upon

focusing the heart.

Your task is not to seek for love,

but merely to seek

and find all the barriers within

yourself that you have built

against it.

The heart has its own

language.  The heart knows a

hundred thousand ways to speak.

 No conversation about love poems could be complete without discussing Rumi.

If he was alive today Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī  would have lived in Afghanistan. A 13th-century Sunni Muslim and Islamic poet, Rumi was so devout in his faith that he wrote in Quatrain, No. 1173: “I am the servant of the Qur’an as long as I have life. I am the dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen one. If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings, I am quit of him and outraged by these words.”

Like the Christian poet of the 16th century, John Donne, Rumi’s love poetry is sometimes indistinguishable from his religious meditations. This might explain why Rumi has some of the simplest yet most profound words of love that I have ever read.

 

The Ache and Confusion

Near the end you saw rose and thorn together,

Evening and morning light co-mingling.

You have broken many shapes and stirred

their colors in the mud.

Now you sit in the garden not doing a thing,

Smiling. You have felt the ache

and confusion of a hangover, yet

you take again the wine that’s handed you.

 

The amazing things about Rumi is how accessible the language is, especially considering Rumi lived from 1207 to 1273. I’m sure quite a bit of the simplicity is the result of the talents of the translators who have bring the poetry of Rumi to the English language from his native Persian, but I also think Rumi chose to write simply so that every could understand the words and instead dwell on meaning of his often short and always profound poems.

 

Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,

absent-minded. Someone sober

will worry about events going badly.

Let the lover be.