John Donne: No Man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem – the passage is taken from the 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose. Another poetry post inspired by the current BBC Poetry season (in this case, Simon Schama’s programme on Donne). I could have chosen so many of Donne’s poems: a great love since A-level. How amazing and wonderful that in the mid-1960s 17-year old boys were licensed to study poems like The Sun Rising or To His Mistress On Going To Bed!

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