In the Episcopal liturgical calendar, today, March 31, is the commemoration of John Donne (1572-1631), Anglican priest and poet.
Donne’s private meditations, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, written while he was convalescing from a serious illness, were published in 1624. The most famous of these is undoubtedly Meditation XVII from which the following are excerpted:
- The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes achild, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.
- No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.