At The Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners, Blow || Summary

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At The Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners, Blow

At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance, hath slain, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe.

But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,
For, if above all these, my sins abound,
'Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace
When we are there, here on this lowly ground,
Teach me how to repent ; for, that's as good
As if thou hadst sealed my pardon, with thy blood

At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blow Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise From death, you numberless infinities Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go, All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow, All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies, Despair, law, chance, hath slain, and you whose eyes, Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe.
At The Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners, Blow

Summary and Analysis

Introduction:

      This is Sonnet VII included under the heading of Holy Sonnets. In 'At the round earth's imagin'd corners' Donne's Catholic faith is uppermost. He thinks of the Day of Judgement, his numerous sins and the fear of punishment. Perhaps repentance will win him the mercy of God. The poem is a kind of dramatic monologue where the poet appeals to God, to postpone the Day of Judgement to enable him to make adequate repentance for his sins. "The poet knows his own unworthiness as a Christian, but asks for grace through prayer and repentance. Leishman writes about the sonnet thus: "Donne is often deliberately rising to the highest pitch of drama (sometimes, might almost be tempted to say, of melodrama) what theology tells him is the reality of his situation, in order, as it were, to convince himself or re-convince himself of that reality. in order to achieve the complete possible imaginative realization of it. It is, as though, in order to convince himself of the need of repentance here and now, Donne had first to fill his imagination with the sound and spectacle of that Last Judgement when repentance would be too late."

Summary:

      Line. 1-8 : Oh angels, blow your trumpets at the imaginary corners of the round earth on the Day of Judgement. Let innumerable souls arise from their graves and return to their bodies. (This has a reference to the Christian belief in resurrection of bodies on the Day of Judgement to present their account in God's Court). There will be souls of people who died as a result of flood, fire, war, poverty, old age, fever, oppression of despots, frustration, operation of law, misfortune and accident. The Souls shall now see God face to face and never more be subject to death.

      Line. 9-14 : Oh God, let the souls sleep a little longer. Give me some more time to repent ( the poet is afraid of facing God because he has committed many more sins than others and has not repented adequately or for long. It will be too late for me to ask for greater grace from you when we are all there standing before you, because my sins will be greater than those of others. It will be better if you give me more time for repentance before the Day of Judgement. I would request you to teach me how to repent sincerely, because true repentance is as powerful in securing the salvation of soul as the crucification of Christ. (The poet wants more time for repentance because the catalogue of his sins is too big and his repentance so far has neither been sincere nor adequate).

Development of Thought:

      The poet asks the angels to blow their trumpets as the Dooms day has come when the dead would rise from their graves to present their account to God. The blowing of the trumpets at the round earth's imagined corners shows Donne's knowledge of the latest discovery 'that the earth is round. But at the same time, he acknowledges the traditional view that the earth is flat and hence he mentions 'corners'. Hearing the sound of the trumpets the souls of innumerable dead persons would hasten to return to their respective bodies. The bodies belong to those who died of various causes most of these were personally known to the poet - as for instance, flood, fire, war, poverty, old age, fevers, tyranny of rulers, frustration, cruel laws, chance and accident. They will be guided according to their actions in the world and some would go to heaven and others would be thrown into hell. There will be no more agony of death after the Day of Judgement.

True Repentance:

      The poet, aware of the magnitude of his sins, is afraid of facing God. He, therefore, requests God to postpone the Day of Judgement and to permit the dead to sleep for more time. This will give the poet adequate time for repenting for his sins. The poet also appeals to God to teach him how to repent sincerely. Sincere and true repentance is as efficacious in winning the mercy of God as the crucification of Christ. Donne seeks grace for his redemption, and his prayer to God shows his intense faith in God's mercy.

Critical Appreciation:

      The poem reflects the complex personality of the poet-his sinful nature, his faith in God and his desire for earning grace through repentance. The poet is aware of his own faults and lapses and hence his appeal to God for more time for true repentance. There is a mystical element in the poem which reflects the poet's relationship to God. Helen C. White writes in this connection: "The Creator and the Governor of the Universe, God is for Donne, as for most men of his time, defined in terms of power and will. He is the judge who fills the sinner's heart with terror when he asks himself "What if this present were the world's last night ? The wrath of God is for the sinner John Donne, an ever-present terror, not to be forgotten in the many beautiful things he has said and sung of the mercy and the love of God".

      There is a contrast in the moods reflected in the octet and sestet. The mood of the poet in the beginning is one of joy and energy while the mood in the last six lines is one of fear and repentance. However, the poem ends on a note of hope - the sealing of the pardon (document) of the poet.

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