The poem “Amazing Grace” by John Newton is considered to be his spiritual autobiography, describing with great passion his way to God (“Amazing Grace!”, 2009). The author invites us to perform a life-long journey with him, which is full of deep feelings and philosophical speculations. In his sincerity, John Newton opens us the depth of his soul. The poem is written in a strikingly beautiful language, and reflects the suffering and joy the author experienced.
The three elements that struck me most about the poem are the content of the poem, the use of literary devices, such as metaphors and metonymies, and the imagery, used by the author.
The content of the poem is especially remarkable because it deals with problems, which may refer to any human being. The poem tells us the story of the author’s spiritual conversion, of his finding God and discovering his grace. The author skillfully makes us understand what exactly he has to go through. He mentions that his life hasn’t been easy: “through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come” (Newton, n.d.). The reader cannot help but sympathize with the narrator. The author describes the changes, which took place inside his soul through the following touching confessions: “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see” (Newton, n.d.). It is worth the remark that these two lines also serve as an allusion to certain passages in the New Testament, including the story of the prodigal son (Aitken, 2007, p. 228). According to the author, God’s grace has filled his whole life; it has taught him to be afraid and also relieved him from fears. But most importantly, God made him feel safe and gave him hope of eternal life. The message of the poem is salvation and forgiveness that can be obtained by anyone. And the purpose of this poem, which is in making the readers reconsider their own life and values, turning their thoughts to God, is successfully achieved.
The author applies different literary devices. “The Lord … will my shield and portion be” (Newton, n.d.) – is an example of metonymy. “This earth shall soon dissolve like snow” is a comparison. “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see” (Newton, n.d.) is a metaphor. These literary devices serve to make the poem more vivid, to help the reader visualize the images used in the poem.
The imagery of the poem includes the image of God, represented as the source of grace and hope, and the image of the narrator, who in the course of his life, eventually comes to receive this grace. Both of these images are exploited with a lot of skill. The main idea of the poem is transferred to the reader through them. The images are so intricate that they capture the readers’ attention and leave a deep imprint in their souls and minds. As the poem is written in the first person, the importance of the narrator is particularly eminent, and the message is more personal.
It is possible to say that through imagery and the use of the literary devices the content of the poem is rendered, and the main points of the author are emphasized. The mentioned elements help me to focus on the idea of the poem, and to understand the author’s feelings and life experiences.
To conclude, it should be noted that “Amazing Grace” by John Newton is a piece of work, reflecting the author’s deep emotions and it has tremendous influence on the reader through different literary elements, which are intertwined with a lot of talent.
Aitken, J. (2007). John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace. Crossway Books.
Amazing Grace! (How Sweet the Sound). (2009, October 31). Dictionary of American Hymnology. Retrieved from http://www.hymnary.org/text/amazing_grace_how_sweet_the_sound
Newton, J. (n.d.). Amazing Grace. PoemHunter. Retrieved from http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/amazing-grace/