In the poem, “Holy Sonnet 14,” the speaker is a religious man who wishes to be taken by God, to be with God, and to believe in God. However, the speaker desires are unattainable because God does not forcibly enter one’s soul. God only “knocks, breathe, shine and seek to mend” (2). God’s soft actions are overruled by Satan as Satan forcibly entrapped the speaker’s soul, engulfing it into sin. The speaker reason that must fend off Satan by God’s viceroy is too weak and misleading, which prevents him from accepting God.
However, the narrator longs for God. He wants God to forcibly enter his soul and enslave him into religion. In the first quatrain, the speaker compares God’s actions of entering a person’s soul to more forcible actions the speaker wishes God would practice. God only subject a person’s soul with his grace by soft and relevantly non-violent actions. He ‘knocks, breate, shine, and seek” (2). However, the speaker wants God to “o’erthrow [him by a) … force to break, blow, burn, and make” (4).
The two comparisons serve as a parallel to one another; one is softer while the other is harsher. The parallel indicates that God’s actions are far too weak to enter a person’s soul soul. God needs to be forceful in order to renew a person into faith as sin is very tempting. In the second quatrain, the speaker uses the analogy of the town under illegal ownership to represent the speaker’s captivity to Satan as he is possessed by another being. Reason is God’s viceroy over the town as it rules over the speaker under God’s order. However, reason “proves [to be weak or untrue as it is unsuccessful at defending the speaker from the invader (8).
Reason is untrue as it often misleads the speaker from the holy path by invoking the narrator to doubt god or view God as imperfect. The analogy in the first two quatrains demonstrates the speaker’s intense desire to be with God, but is imprisoned by Satan. The speaker views himself as too sinful and too convoluted with Satan to be with God. In order for the speaker to be with God, God needs to be more forceful and hold the speaker captive in order to direct his life onto a holy path.
In the last two lines of the poem, the speaker discusses his desire to be enslaved only by God so he may never be controlled by Satan or sin. The narrator goes further into his desire by stating God must “ravish” him so he may be “chast” (14). The paradox of the poem relies heavily on the last line of the poem as the speaker requests God to sexually assault him in order for his sin to be cleansed. Ironically, rape is considered an impure act as a victim’s purity is taken, but the speaker views God’s forceful act as liberating and pure.
The couplet of the poem resolves the speaker’s dilemma, which is presented in the beginning of the poem, by listing God methods to enter the speaker’s soul. He tells God to ravish and control him so he may be cleansed and reside with God. Although the act of rape is impure, God control over the speaker is the complete opposite as God’s embrace is liberating and cleansing. His instructions relates to the theme of the poem of repentance as God actions can wash away the speakers uncleanliness.
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