REFLECTIONS...

John Donne

Meditation XVII: No man is an island...

"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...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...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 famous meditation of Donne's puts forth two essential ideas which are representative of the Renaissance era in which it was written:

No man is an island, entire of itself...The idea that people are not isolated from one another, but that mankind is interconnected; and
Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for theeThe vivid awareness of mortality that seems a natural outgrowth of a time when death was the constant companion of life.

D John Donne

Donne brings these two themes together to affirm that any one man's death diminishes all of mankind, since all mankind is connected; yet that death itself is not so much to be feared as it at first seems.