After class, I went back to my office to check what Helen Vendler's Poems, Poets, Poetry does with that sonnet. In the Teacher's Guide, she suggests that you spell out to the class in advance that according to Christian theology--at least the theology Donne knew--God can't simply slap your soul upside the head and force it to accept redemption. That would have helped in class; I'll keep that in mind for next time. She also offers a wonderful paper topic, which I thought I'd pass along to you:
What are the two adjectives in the couplet that tell us what the speaker wants to be? How do these adjectives generate the two chief metaphors (town and bride) of the poem? Track the verbs used in the commands hurled at God by the speaker, and connect them to the two closing verbs ('enthrall', 'ravish') of the couplet: Are they similar or different? What is the playof language between the meanings of the commands and the meanings (look them up in the dictionary) of the two closing verbs?One thing this assignment would do, I think, is tune the students in to how "wrong" or "off" the initial demands of God in the poem turn out to be. Not just wrong theologically, but wrong given what the speaker "really wants," by the close.
Today, Herbert and Marvell! Anyone out there have any good paper topics, study questions, or classroom approaches to "Love (III)"?