John Donne's Poetry
Support for studying English GCSE and A Level
Annotation prompts for John Donne's 'A Hymn to God the Father'
'A Hymn to God the Father' centres on forgiveness. A hymn is song / ode in praise or honour of God. Donne probably wrote this poem in 1623, after he had recovered from a near-fatal illness -- suspected to be typhus / "spotted fever" (tick-borne disease) which gripped London in an epidemic that year. Donne (22.01.1572 -- 31.03.1631) is one of the most famous 17th century English 'metaphysical poets' -- a term coined by Samuel Johnson. These poets creatively use conceits (extended metaphors), wit, and engage with topics such as love or religion. 'Metaphysics' is a branch of philosophy. It deals with first principles, including ontology (nature of existence) / cosmology (origin and structure of universe -- laws, space, time, causality, and freedom) / intimately connected with epistemology (origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge).
What is the main purpose of this philosophical lyric poem, 'A Hymn to God the Father'? Is the persona baiting God? This hymn was set to music by John Hilton, during Donne's lifetime. It was probably sung in some English churches during the seventeenth century.
The annotation prompts are a supportive tool, intended to encourage further analysis and interpretation.