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November 13, 2005

No man is an island

A meditation on the state of man
John Donne
Dean of St Paul's Cathedral London

(Originally part of a sermon delivered in the Cathedral)

Perchance he for whom the bell tolls may be so ill that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The Church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptises a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to the Head which is my Head too, and engrafted 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....

No man is an island, entire of itself; everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the man; if a clod be washed away by the sea Europe is the less, as well a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends 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.

c 1623 following the death of a friend.

Posted by The Gray Monk at November 13, 2005 12:00 PM

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