In the poem “Batter my heart, three-personed God”, John Donne portrays a troubled speaker who is experiencing a spiritual disturbance in accepting his current faith and who is therefore expressing his desire to renew his faith in God and his religion. Throughout this religious sonnet, Donne employs the use of metaphors which provide clues as to what the speaker is feeling during the poem and paradoxes to exemplify the speaker’s request.
Based on the first statement of the poem alone, it is clear that the lines to follow will involve some sort of religious conflict, as shown by the command said by the speaker, “Batter my heart, three-personed God”. In relation to the rest of the poem, one can conclude that the “three-personed God” to which the speaker is referring is a metaphor for the Holy Trinity of the Christian religion; the use of the word “batter” serves as a forerunner to the later violent requests of the speaker.
The simile used in line 5 of the poem which compares the speaker to a usurped town shows that the speaker is in an undesired and vulnerable position, just as a city would be just after being appropriated by a foreign enemy. In this metaphorical sense, the speaker is asking God to defend him and reclaim him from this unknown enemy. This idea can be later confirmed in lines 7 and 8 where the speaker directly speaks of God’s attempt to “recapture” his soul.
Although this acknowledgement of a divine intervention is evident to the speaker, he nonetheless states that “Reason, [God’s] viceroy in me…/ proves weak or untrue,” and that this instrument of God has itself been “captived”. As a result of this lack of faith, the speaker states that his efforts to accept God have been futile when faced with this “enemy”. The usage of metaphors and similes within the poem have the overall effect of helping to set up the condition of the speaker in order to provide reason for his request.