Beautiful Writing, Part 5: John Donne




John Donne was a poet, philosopher, and man of the church in Renaissance England. His writing covered a wide range of material, including poems, songs, and sermons. I want to quote from one of his most famous pieces: “Meditation 17”, which many readers will recognize as the epigram at the beginning of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man 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 manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: 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.

This quotation is an expression of Humanism and the connection of all people. It is especially important in our current world.

19 thoughts on “Beautiful Writing, Part 5: John Donne

  1. Donne, Milton, Bunyan, Moore et al quite a brilliant bunch as the high Renaissance as Europe goes climaxes in the literary genius of England and foundation for Age of Enlightenment. Puritans carry theology to the next level as part of Reformation. Thomas Moore remains a Catholic though and Henry VIII terminates him. Pretty stupid when a king executes the smartest man in the country. That is ironic as Protestants in the tradition of Luther, Calvin and Knox don’t consider Anglicans Protestants but they consider themselves such.

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  2. I read this over and over. It is profound. The message of humanism is beautifully written. I read this in high school, long before I appreciated deeper meaning or excellent writing. Thank you for bringing this alive for me after many years.


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