My Cart 


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.


Post New Comment:
Whether in the original prose or quoted as a poem, the message is more than sentiment. It is reality. If we do not act upon his admonition, to address the travesties wrought by greed, militarism, hate, and fear, we shall all wash into the sea and disapper.
Posted 03/24/2024 12:21 AM
Hemingway's book title is clearly taken from Donne's meditation - but another work inspired by this poem is the Simon and Garfunkel song "I Am a Rock," which has the refrain "I am a rock, I am an island." The singer tries to deny his involvement with mankind for fear of being hurt, claiming "an island never cries."
Posted 09/22/2023 05:17 AM
@Protheist: "not amongst his more talented work. The poem's success is in the last line. Batter My Heart Three-Personed God is truly one of his more intricate works."??? "No Man Is an Island" is perfectly crafted from first line to last, and is inarguably Donne's most famous and influential work. Posterity has carefully plucked it from a long, meandering theological treatise of little interest to those not theistically inclined, distilling the humanistic kernel that resonates deeply with all of humanity, Christian and atheist alike. Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer" is another such carefully excerpted gem, although I prefer to cast it as a Buddhist-style affirmative prayer; "I will have the strength ..." etc.
Posted 08/07/2022 03:56 PM
When I was young the belles trolled for me. Now I'm old and they've lost interest.
Posted 02/05/2022 03:33 PM

Posted 02/05/2022 03:32 PM
When I was young the belles trolled for me. Now I'm old they've lost interest.
Posted 02/05/2022 03:32 PM
This famous quote is from Donnies Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII. It was originally prose, not poetry, and part of a much longer piece. The powerful line about sending to know for whom the bell tolls seems to be slightly misquoted as send not to know (perhaps influenced by Kennedys ask not phrase). Whereas in the original it reads never send to know for whom the bell tolls. Which, in my opinion, is both more natural without the inversion and more pointed: the word never giving it extra weight. 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.
Posted 12/10/2021 06:45 PM
Dear Protheist: Wish you lived in Chicago, we would definitely meet and would happily discuss. I have John Donne'd people to death and I'm sure these people are sick of me. The memorialized dead in their graves, hear me resurrect the same beautiful lines, explaining them to the unenlightened who never read Donne, and in the end, sighed, rolled their eyes skyward and said, well, I guess that's what you'd expect from Connie. Don't know you but miss your intelligence in my life anyway. Thank you for your comments.
Posted 08/13/2021 11:34 PM
An excellent poem, though not amongst his more talented work. The poem's success is in the last line. Batter My Heart Three-Personed God is truly one of his more intricate works. He was a paradox of sexuality and faith. Some might question whether he was truly a man of faith or if he poked fun at faith with his rogue language making him seem perhaps sacrilegious or even blasphemous. I find it as intricate as I do offensive. His works are fodder for many a debate. What say ye?
Posted 08/05/2021 01:15 PM
Perry Debell:
Therefore, send not to know For whom Debell tolls, It tolls for thee.
Posted 05/20/2021 01:33 PM
"Send not to know for whom the bell tolls" is one of the most powerful quotes ever, in my opinion. I think people should take it to heart more often. in the time of this pandemic (as I'm writing this) we must ask not for whom the bell tolls, as it tolls for thee.
Posted 04/29/2021 04:45 PM
Dreow the druid :
An astonishing poem that reminds me of a core teaching in esoteric druidry. All is connected for we are all part of creation and therefore God.
Posted 12/23/2020 11:50 PM
I too would have attributed this expression to Hemmingway. However, Roddy McDowall had never met Donald J. Trump who has gotten away (so far) with everything in this age of the internet. Thank you for mentioning Mr.McDowall as he would never have crossed my feeble mind. The internet is good for some things like our remembrances of John Donne, Ernest Hemmingway, Roddy McDowall,and "For whom the Bell Tolls."
Posted 10/31/2020 01:49 AM
My grandson asked me where the expression "For whom the Bell Tolls" comes from and my husband immediately quoted Ernest Hemmingway's book of that name, but I somewhere in my memory was the remnants of a well lived poem. Thanks for being my source of that poem by Donne and also for the enjoyment our grandchildren got from it.
Posted 06/30/2020 07:44 AM
Pow- Zap- I stand corrected- it was The Bookworm (Roddy McDowall)...(you can�t get away with anything in the age of the Internet).
Posted 05/25/2020 11:46 PM

Posted 05/25/2020 11:31 PM
I have loved this verse since I first heard it, when �The Penguin� (Burgess Meredith) quoted it to his nemesis- Batman, in the old 1960�s TV series.
Posted 05/25/2020 11:22 PM
Ask not for whom the coursework deadline tolls, It tolls for thee!
Posted 04/24/2020 07:08 AM
"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

Contents of this web site and all original text and images therein are copyright © by Your Daily Poem. All rights reserved.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Purchasing books through any poet's Amazon links helps to support Your Daily Poem.
The material on this site may not be copied, reproduced, downloaded, distributed, transmitted, stored, altered, adapted,
or otherwise used in any way without the express written permission of the owner.