For whom the bell tolls
Yesterday the poet and Anglican priest John Donne (1572 – 31 March 1631) was commemorated on the Episcopal calendar. He is one of England’s finest poets and was one of the best-known preachers of his day.
When all is done, the hell of hells, the torment of torments, is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence…to fall out of the hands of the living God, is a horror beyond our expression, beyond our imagination…. What Tophet is not Paradise, what Brimstone is not Amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worme is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God?
–From a sermon to the Earl of Carlisle in 1622
He is known equally for his love poetry:
Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.
and his metaphysical verse:
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.
I suggest you take some time today and read some John Donne. You’ll be glad you did.
“I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry;
But where’s that wiseman, that would not be I,
If she would not deny?
Then as th’ earth’s inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water’s fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme’s vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.
But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain;
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when ’tis read.
Both are increased by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three;
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.”
― John Donne
Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with thy servant John Donne, that whatsoever hath any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.