John Donne Resonance

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  • 04 Apr 2015 at 6:46 pm #6878


    Just wanted to point out a weird connection between a few John Donne poems, The Crossing, and Suttree. (By the way, I’m sure that what follows is a coincidence, but I find it interesting nonetheless.)

    I feel it’s been pretty well established that what Billy sees at the very end of The Crossing is a nuclear test in the NM desert. Well, the first such test was codenamed “Trinity” (which is really ominous in connection with the broken rainbow (sign of the covenant) at the end). Anyway, I started reading on the Trinity test. Turns out the codename was given by Oppenheimer, who claims he was inspired by two of John Donne’s poems: Batter My Heart and Hymn to God, My God

    Well, Batter My Heart has as its central metaphor the author Donne as a besieged city. Besieged by whom/what? Perhaps the devil, perhaps a lack of faith, perhaps “unchaste” thoughts, etc. And Donne calls upon God to “Batter [his] heart”, to invade and take over the city, to make him “free” and “chaste”. This reminded me strikingly of the prologue to Suttree:

    “The night is quiet. Like a camp before battle. The city beset by a thing unknown and will it come from forest or sea? The murengers have walled the pale, the gates are shut, but lo the thing’s inside and can you guess his shape? Where he’s kept or what’s the counter of his face? Is he a weaver, bloody shuttle shot through a timewarp, a carder of souls from the world’s nap? Or a hunter with hounds or do bone horses draw his deadcart through the streets and does he call his trade to each? Dear friend he is not to be dwelt upon for it is by just suchwise that he’s invited in.”

    Given all the existential stuff in Suttree, I wonder to what extent McCarthy metaphorically identifies Sut (perhaps himself?) as a besieged city a la Donne.

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