Devotions – Upon Emergent Occasions together with Death’s Duelby John Donne
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Devotions upon Emergent Occasions is a 1624 prose wo rk by the English writer John Donne, who dedicated it to the future King Charles I. It is a series of reflections that were written as Donne recovered from a serious illness, believed to be either typhus or relapsing fever. (Donne does not clearly identify the disease in his text.) He describes this as a "preternatural birth, in returning to life, from this sickness". The work consists of twenty-three parts ('devotions') describing each stage of the sickness. Each part is further divided into a Meditation, an Expostulation, and a Prayer.
Meditation XVII is perhaps the best-known part of the work. It forms part of Devotion XVII (subtitled "Now, this bell tolling for another, says to me, thou must die."), in which the patient prepares himself to die,and contains the following passage:
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
It is the origin of the phrase "No Man Is an Island". The phrase "For whom the bell tolls" was later famously used as the title of a 1940 novel by Ernest Hemingway about the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway's title in turn provided the title for a song by the heavy metal group Metallica.
This Sermon was, by Sacred Authoritie, stiled the Authors owne funeral Sermon. Most fitly: whether wee respect the time, or the matter. It was preached not many dayes before his death; as is, having done this, there remained nothing for him to doe, but to die: And the matter is, of Death; the occasion and subject of all funerall Sermons/ It hath beene observed of theis Reverend Man, That his Faculty in Preaching continually encreased: and, That as hee exceeded others at first; so, at last hee exceeded himselfe. This is his last Sermon; I will not say, it if therefore his best; because, all his were ecvellent. Yet this much: A dying Mans words, if they be concerne our selves; doe usually make the deepest impression, as being spoken most feelingly, and with less affectation. Now, whom doth it not concerne to learn, both the danger, and benefit of death? Death is every mans enemy, and intends hurt to all; although to many, hee be occasion of greatest goods. This enemy wee must all combate dying; whom hee living did almost conquer; having discovered the utmost of his power, the utmost of his crueltie. May wee make such use of this and other the like preparatives, That neither death whensoever it shall come, may seeme terrible; not life tedious; how long soever it shall last.
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