The poem is believed to have been written in 1623 when Donne was seriously ill. This exemplifies the ferocity of sin and the spirit of salvation. The poem is a monologue to God, the Father. The Father is synonymous with the Christian Trinity’s final judgement, God. Sometimes, the poem incorporates elements of drama. Donne, the one who weighs the crimes, suffers as a result of original sin; Donne, the poet, remains detached and creates verse during this mental and theological upheaval. Thus, the entire poem is a confession fired from the perspective of a wandering mind awaiting death and the Final Judgment.
The first two stanzas list all of the poet’s sins, whether explicitly or indirectly. Each poem concludes with a half-line, implying that the poet is still harbouring grave unconfessed sins.
The poem concludes both metrically and semantically with the confession of the Sin of Despair, a cardinal sin indicating a lack of faith in Christ and his contribution to human salvation. Contrary to popular belief, the poet had no more ‘fear’ of sins after this confession and subsequent request for affirmation of grace and redemption.