Meditation 17 Summary
Donne is approaching death. Hearing a church bell signifying a funeral, he observes that every death diminishes the large fabric of humanity.
We are all in this world together, and we ought to use the suffering of others to learn how to live better so that we are better prepared for our own death, which is merely a translation to another world. In this two-paragraph meditation, Donne meditates upon the sounding of a church bell signifying a funeral and connects it to his own present illness. He wonders if the person is aware that the bell has sounded for him.
Obviously, if someone is dead, he does not know and it is too late for him to meditate upon it. Donne then applies the idea to himself, using the bell to become aware of his own spiritual sickness, and to everyone else by noting that the church is a universal establishment.
Every human action affects the rest of humanity in some way. Although God uses various means to achieve this changeover, God is nonetheless the author and cause of each death.
John Donne: Poems
Donne also compares this death-knell to the church bell calling the congregation to worship, as both bells apply to all and direct their attention to matters more spiritual than material.
Donne also recounts how the various religious orders disagreed about which group should be given the privilege of ringing the first bell calling everyone to prayer; the decision was made to allow the order which rose first in the morning to ring that bell. Again Donne connects this to the death-knell and urges himself and his readers to take its imminence into account when deciding what to do each day.
Donne, Med 17, A
After all, the bell really tolls for the person who has the ears to hear it. Just as dirt and sand clods are part of the European continent, so too is each man part of the entire human race; the removal of a clod diminishes the continent, and the removal of a human life diminishes mankind.
Since every death diminishes the rest of mankind in some way, when the bell tolls for a funeral it tolls in a sense for everyone. Although a man may not be able to make use of that wisdom himself as he suffers and dies, those who observe it can better prepare themselves for their own fate.
There is nothing that the poet can do to change the movements of the sun or the coming of the day, no matter how clever his comparisons.
From his perspective, the whole world is right there with him, yet he knows that his perspective is limited What does the poet exhort God to do line?
Sweetest Love, I do not goe. This is an allusion to the god, Apollo, who is known to bring the sun home. The speaker is comparing himself to Apollo and alludes to the fact that he is like the sun John Donne: Poems study guide contains a biography of John Donne, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
John Donne: Poems essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of John Donne's poetry.
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Buy Study Guide. Study Guide for John Donne: Poems John Donne: Poems study guide contains a biography of John Donne, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.