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For Whom the Bell Tolls
John Donne


No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each 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 thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.


This poem is in the public domain.



John Donne (1572 - 1631) was an English writer and poet. As a Catholic in a time when that denomination was illegal in England, he endured constant prejudice and harassment and was ultimately forced into joining the Anglican church by King James I. Early in his life, John earned a reputation as a playboy and spendthrift, but at 25, he fell in love with Anne More. Despite her father's scorn, the couple married, had a dozen children, and John became a devoted—if not financially successful—family man. His career forays included law, diplomatic service, and church leadership, but he is best remembered as the founder of a group called the "metaphysical” poets. Popular during his lifetime, then dismissed for many years as inferior because it was so different from other poetry of that time, John's work is today considered brilliant and his influence on literature legendary.


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"No One Is an Island One universe, one breath - the vine, enjoining with the branches, Individual human lives, enjoined in different circumstances - A supernatural unanimity of source - All earth's microcosmic pieces linked by one infinite resource. No one is an island, and cannot be, Each is an integral drop in a supernatural sea. We plunder others - we slaughter, and oppress, And sometimes spurn our neighbors in distress. We revile, but sometimes repent and then embrace in love, As we manage our prejudices to improve. Universal acknowledgement of man's guilt is key, In total submission, we can admit our faults with humility. We can still unite as one body - the vine, enjoining with all the branches, And form one mystical composite of conjoined, and blessed circumstances." from: Poetry Alive at
Posted 01/26/2020 12:20 PM
I have loved this since I was a teenager - a long time ago now. I had a brilliant English teacher when I was around 14 who asked us to read this and explain it. Also things like "A Burnt Ship". If you think there is any difference between Meditations and Poetry, or think that Poetry has to rhyme, you should probably think deeply, and choose again. Best wishes to all, John
Posted 12/24/2019 01:34 AM
This is NOT a poem. It is the 17 th Meditation from John Donne's 'Devotions upon Emergent Occasions' published in 1623.
Posted 12/20/2019 01:21 AM
i, too, am involved in mankind. this is a great poem.
Posted 05/02/2019 05:07 PM
This is great!!
Posted 02/19/2016 12:00 AM
Mary Lou Taylor:
One of my favorite poets, the leading metaphysical poets of his time.
Posted 02/17/2016 02:20 PM
Love the artistic perfection of Donne's work. Thanks Jane, for this post.
Posted 02/17/2016 10:53 AM
Ginny C.:
This poem is timeless.
Posted 02/17/2016 10:39 AM
Lori Levy:
Didn't know this was the source for Hemingway's title. Good poem!
Posted 02/17/2016 10:02 AM
Janet Leahy:
A perfect poem for us this morning as we spend time with a friend in hospice care.
Posted 02/17/2016 08:59 AM
One of the great classics of English lit.
Posted 02/17/2016 08:56 AM
Wilda Morris:
A fine poem and wonderful reminder.
Posted 02/17/2016 08:05 AM
Wonderful. Thanks, Janyne.
Posted 02/17/2016 05:12 AM
Ross Kightly:
Ah, the very great and immensely complex John Donne - he also had one of the great senses of humour: at an early stage of his apparently ill-starred liaison with Anne he wrote: 'John Donne, Anne Donne, undone!' Which happily turned out not exactly to be a true prediction. Any poet who begins a poem 'Busy old fool, unruly sun, why dost thou thus...' is worth looking at. Great stuff Jayne; thank you.
Posted 02/17/2016 05:08 AM
I have loved this poem for years. So good to see it still read
Posted 02/17/2016 04:27 AM

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