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John Donne (1572–1631)

A Hymn to God the Father


Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
            Which is my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
            And do run still: though still I do deplore?
                        When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
                                    For, I have more.


Wilt Thou forgive that sin by which I have won
            Others to sin?  And, made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
            A year, or two; but wallowed in, a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
            For, I have more.


I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
            My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
Swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy son
            Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
                        And, having done that, Thou hast done,
                                    I fear no more.

John Donne (1572-1631) was born into a prominent Catholic family but converted to the Church of England in his twenties.  At the age of eleven he entered Oxford University for a period of three years, and then Cambridge, but he never took a degree.  In 1615 he became an Anglican priest, and in 1621 the dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.  Donne’s poetry, prose and sermons were famous for their eloquence, subtlety, psychological analysis and brilliance, especially as they described the complex paradoxes of the human condition.

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