John Donne Holy Sonnet 4

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Holy Sonnet 4 At the round earth's imagined 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, dea[r]th, 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 seal'd my pardon with Thy blood. Synopsis: Holy Sonnet 4 is an extraordinary poem dealing with Judgment Day. Background: In the Catholic view on Judgment Day (or the Last Judgment or Apocalypse) all the dead and alive people in the world will be judged fairly in front of God and the good will be separated from the bad. According to Christian belief, the body and the soul are separate entities that become separated with death. On Judgment Day, the souls and the bodies will unite once again to be judged for the last time. Lines 5-7 describe the types of people whom will be judged. In “All whom the flood did,” we see a reference to Genesis, in which the flood killed everyone but Noah’s family, who survived on the ark. After this massacre, God promised Noah never to send such a flood again to kill the sinners. On Judgment Day, the sinners will be instead thrown into the fire, completing line 5: “All whom the flood did, and the fire shall, overthrow.” The list of words in lines 6-7 is a creative approach to encompass all the ways of dying: war for people who did in battle, dearth for those who died of hunger, age for natural death, agues for sickness, and tyrannies for those who died under oppressive leaders. The remaining three in line 7
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