Holy Sonnet # 18

John Donne

thy spouse: i.e., the church.
Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear.
What! is it she which on the other shore
goes richly painted: i.e. appears wearing a great deal of makeup. robbed and tore: This may be an allusion to protestant iconoclasm. peeps up: pops up; suddenly appears.
Goes richly painted? or which, robbed and tore,
Laments and mourns in Germany and here?
Sleeps she a thousand, then peeps up one year?
Is she self-truth, and errs? now new, now outwore?
Doth she, and did she, and shall she evermore
On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?
Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights
First travel we to seek, and then make love?
Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sights,
And let mine amorous soul court thy mild dove,
Who is most true and pleasing to thee then
When she is embraced and open to most men.

Extended Notes

thy spouse: The idea that the church is the "Bride of Christ" is suggested in quite a few Bible verses; see the Wikipedia entry on this topic.
goes richly painted: "Paint" was associated with prostitutes, and this passage may allude to the idea, promoted by both Luther and Calvin, that the Catholic Church is the "Whore of Babylon" described in the Book of Revelation.
robbed and tore: One ugly feature of Calvinism was a widespread iconoclasm. See the Wikipedia page on the Beeldenstorm