At The Round Earths Imagind Corners Blow John Donne 1633 At

the round earth's imagin'd corners blow" provides John Donne an opportunity in sonnet form to consider the prophecy from the Bible's book of Revelation 7:1 that angels would stand at the earth's four corners to herald the resurrection of the faithful. The term imagined does not reflect on a lack of truthfulness, but rather on the apostle John's dream state as he received God's inspired vision of the future. One of the Holy Sonnets, this poem has traditionally been numbered 7 and adopts its first line as its title. Its message remains simple. Donne repeats the detail from Revelation that describes angels trumpeting the beginning of eternal life for those "numberless infinities / Of souls" who will answer the call. Despite their "scattered bodies," they will arise, as did Jesus after his physical death on the cross.

Donne catalogs the many manners by which the faithful died and would continue to die:

All whom the flood did, and fire shall, o'erthrow,

All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,

Despair, law, chance hath slain.

Certain translations printed the word dearth, appearing in the second line, as death. Helen Gardner discusses the dispute over that printing. As has been pointed out, because Donne enumerates several modes in which death arrives, "death" cannot be one of those modes; it would represent a circular argument. More convincingly, Gardner explains that Donne's use of the term death would constitute a biblical error, one he probably would not make. The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse as described in the biblical book of Revelation is named Death and can kill using four different plagues. Those plagues are described in Ezekiel 14:21: "The sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence." While the word death is substituted in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible for the word pestilence, Gardner notes that nowhere outside that instance has she ever seen death without an adjective of some sort substituted for pestilence. In addition, because Donne has characteristically been dealing with opposites in his poem, contrasting those who die abruptly and in large numbers by war and pestilence with those who die singly and slowly, by decay, the term dearth acts as war's partner, a reference to something tame or unremarkable. The contrast afforded by such juxtaposition led to a pleasing balance common to Donne's poetry.

The speaker continues, noting that while the faithful have died, they "never taste death's woe," a Paradox indicating that death remains a transient state for them. It merely prepared them for their later opportunity to join God in heaven, as Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection permit.

Donne adopts the Petrarchan form in this sonnet, presenting his topic in the first eight lines and then commenting on it in the remaining sixth. His comment focuses on the speaker's own status as a sinner exposed by the dead faithful, "above all these," as one whose own "sins abound." He acknowledges, "'Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace / When we are there." Donne employs enjambment to move the reader directly from the term grace to the idea of an appropriate time to receive that grace, which is not "there." Rather, he asks the Lord, "Here on this lowly ground, / Teach me how to repent." Donne offers hope to those living in his own age that they may determine their own forgiveness. No matter when the speaker, or any sinner, repents, as long as it is prior to the rise of the faithful to heaven, "that's as good / As if thou hadst sealed my pardon with thy blood." The final phrase expresses irony, as Christ's blood flowed during his crucifixion, and the imagery of that blood washing away sin of those who lived in later ages remains common to Christian writing. In addition during Protestant communion the wine ingested symbolized Christ's blood, and its sealing of the faithful's pardon of sin.

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Responses

  • Christina
    How was revelation used in john donne's at round earth's four corners?
    2 years ago

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