Annotation John

Donne ’ s Holy Sonnet
IX

Holy Sonnet IX

If poisonous minerals, and if that tree,
Whose fruit threw death on (else immortal) us,
If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
Cannot be damn'd, alas ! why should I be ?
Why should intent or reason, born in me,
Make sins, else equal, in me more heinous ?
And, mercy being easy, and glorious
To God, in His stern wrath why threatens He ?
But who am I, that dare dispute with Thee ?
O God, O !  of Thine only worthy blood,
And my tears, make a heavenly Lethean flood,
And drown in it my sin's black memory.
That Thou remember them, some claim as debt ;
I think it mercy if Thou wilt forget.

Structure

1 If poisonous minerals, and if that
tree,
2 Whose fruit threw death on (else immortal)
us,
3 If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
4 Cannot be damn'd, alas ! why should I be ?
5 Why should intent or reason, born in me,
6 Make sins, else equal, in me more heinous ?
7 And, mercy being easy, and glorious
8 To God, in His stern wrath why threatens
He ?
9 But who am I, that dare dispute with Thee ?
10 O God, O !  of Thine only worthy blood,
11 And my tears, make a heavenly Lethean
flood,
12 And drown in it my sin's black memory.
13 That Thou remember them, some claim as
debt ;
14 I think it mercy if Thou wilt forget.

Poetic
Traditions

M e d ita tiv
e p o e try

Sonnet 9
Structure

o Sonnet has a rhyme scheme
of ABBAABBAACCDEE
o Shows emphasis on line
12
o Emphasis on lines 13
and 14 also because of
change in rhyme
scheme
o Has structure of meditative
poetry: 1) focus of setting 2)
analysis of points 3)
colloquies (dialogue with
God)
o Donne is often known
for using parts of
meditative poetry
structure, usually
colloquies.
o Sonnet 9 uses trifold of
meditative poetry while
using traditional

Religious References
1 If poisonous minerals, and if that tree,
2 Whose fruit threw death on (else immortal) us,
3 If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
4 Cannot be damn'd, alas ! why should I be ?
5 Why should intent or reason, born in me,
6 Make sins, else equal, in me more heinous ?
7 And, mercy being easy, and glorious
8 To God, in His stern wrath why threatens He ?
9 But who am I, that dare dispute with Thee ?
10 O God, O !  of Thine only worthy blood,
11 And my tears, make a heavenly Lethean flood,
12 And drown in it my sin's black memory.
13 That Thou remember them, some claim as debt ;
14 I think it mercy if Thou wilt forget.

 Uses multiple religious

references within the poem
 Questions ways of God, and
then changes tone in line 8
to a tone of acceptance and
repentance.
 Structure and questions
according to refer to Romans
8.
 Uses same technique of
switching for first person
plural pronoun to first person
singular pronouns to get
audience to sympathizes
with him and repent to God.
Topic of questioning also
appears in Romans 8.

Tone

 Change in Tone from line 8 to 9
 May have derived from

purpose of structure to
reference Romans 8
1 If poisonous minerals, and if that tree,
 Purpose to help reader
2 Whose fruit threw death on (else immortal)
us,
sympathize with
3 If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
speaker
4 Cannot be damn'd, alas ! why should I be 
? Uses meditative poetry style of
5 Why should intent or reason, born in me,
dramatic statements
6 Make sins, else equal, in me more heinous ?
 Switches from
7 And, mercy being easy, and glorious
questioning to
8 To God, in His stern wrath why threatens He ?
explanation where
9 But who am I, that dare dispute with Thee ?
speaker is begging for
10 O God, O !  of Thine only worthy blood,
mercy
11 And my tears, make a heavenly Lethean
flood,
 Connects with Donne’s past
12 And drown in it my sin's black memory.
 Troubling past shines
13 That Thou remember them, some claim as
through in questioning,
debt ;
and portrays Donne’s
14 I think it mercy if Thou wilt forget.
theme of creating

melancholic tones
compared to spiritual










Metaphors
Use of metaphysical

Displays different

metaphors
Compares sin to
poisonous minerals,
lusty goats, and
serpents
Compares grace to
flood

imagery than
imagery provided
usually imagined
when talking, fall of
man, grace, and
mercy

V s.

Works Cited
Archer, Stanley. "Meditation and the Structure of Donne's "Holy Sonnets"“

ELH 28.2 (1961): 137-147. JSTOR. The Johns Hopkins University
Press. Web. March 2010

Chong, Kenneth. "Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Self-Chastisement in Donne's 'If
Poysonous Mineralls'." Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et
Réforme 29.4 (2005): 41-55. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web.
2 Mar. 2010.

Kuchar, Gary. "Petrarchism and Repentance in John Donne's Holy Sonnets."
Modern Philology: Critical and Historical Studies in Literature, Medieval
Through Contemporary 105.3 (2008): 535-569. MLA International
Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 2 Mar. 2010.

Trevor, Douglas. "John Donne and Scholarly Melancholy." Studies in English
Literature 1500-1900 40.1 (2000): 81-102. Winter. Project Muse. Web. 2
March 2010