John Donne

(24 January 1572 - 31 March 1631 / London, England)

No Man Is An Island - Poem by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
........................
........................
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Poet's Notes about The Poem

These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem - the passage is taken from the 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose. The words of the original passage are as follows:

John Donne
Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

'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....'

Comments about No Man Is An Island by John Donne

  • John Torgerson (11/20/2013 9:51:00 AM)

    Thank you Randall Stevenson (10/22/2013) for the background on this poem and on John Donne. I believe this poem challenges a current cultural mantra, What I do in private affects no one. (Report) Reply

    36 person liked.
    21 person did not like.
  • Krishnakumar Chandrasekar Nair (11/18/2013 4:27:00 AM)

    No man is an island or a continent small
    He or she is nothing less than a planet or star
    Unique in the gifts bestowed by the good Lord
    And only recognized when they are long gone......

    I welcome all ye poets reading this to my page too..... (Report) Reply

  • Randall Stevenson (10/22/2013 3:07:00 PM)

    John Donne was a lawyer, poet, satirist and clergyman. It was an English traditional to ring the bells of a law school when one of its barristers (lawyers) died. Law offices would send messengers to the school to inquire who died by asking, “For whom does the bell toll? ” John Donne had lost his father at age 4. Although John Donne had completed education at Cambridge and Oxford he was denied degrees because he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, an oath that recognized the sovereign of England as the head of religion of the country. Although a barrister (lawyer) , this forced him to live a life bordering on poverty. Several of John Donne’s friends and close relatives were killed or exiled because they were Catholics who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy. His brother, who after being tortured for harboring a Catholic priest until he betrayed the priest, was imprisoned in Newgate prison, where he died of bubonic plague. The harbored priest was then tortured on the rack, hung until he was almost dead and then killed by disembowelment. John Donne reconsidered and took the Oath of Supremacy, for which he was materially rewarded with influential positions. However, he saw how each of these deaths had diminished him; and years later published this meditation. In the full meditation he talks about the complete connectedness of the universal church and how the impact of one impacts all. I think it was a reflection on I Cor.12: 12-31 and/or Romans 12: 4-5 (For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.) (Report) Reply

    Bharati Nayak Bharati Nayak (8/1/2015 9:40:00 AM)

    Thanks for enlightening us on John Donne's life which would help in understanding his poems.

  • Randall Stevenson (10/22/2013 3:06:00 PM)

    John Donne was a lawyer, poet, satirist and clergyman. It was an English traditional to ring the bells of a law school when one of its barristers (lawyers) died. Law offices would send messengers to the school to inquire who died by asking, “For whom does the bell toll? ” John Donne had lost his father at age 4. Although John Donne had completed education at Cambridge and Oxford he was denied degrees because he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, an oath that recognized the sovereign of England as the head of religion of the country. Although a barrister (lawyer) , this forced him to live a life bordering on poverty. Several of John Donne’s friends and close relatives were killed or exiled because they were Catholics who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy. His brother, who after being tortured for harboring a Catholic priest until he betrayed the priest, was imprisoned in Newgate prison, where he died of bubonic plague. The harbored priest was then tortured on the rack, hung until he was almost dead and then killed by disembowelment. John Donne reconsidered and took the Oath of Supremacy, for which he was materially rewarded with influential positions. However, he saw how each of these deaths had diminished him; and years later published this meditation. In the full meditation he talks about the complete connectedness of the universal church and how the impact of one impacts all. I think it was a reflection on I Cor.12: 12-31 and/or Romans 12: 4-5 (For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.) (Report) Reply

  • Phyllis James (7/28/2013 9:45:00 AM)

    These verses bring to mind the writings of King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 4: 8-12.
    Whether one has wealth or is in poverty...we all need someone. (Report) Reply

  • Phyllis James (7/28/2013 9:43:00 AM)

    These verses bring to mind the writings of King Solomon, Eccelesiates 4: 8-12.
    Soloman informs us that no one man is truly able to abide alone; whether in wealth or poverty...everyone needs someone. (Report) Reply

  • Hardik Vaidya (2/21/2013 5:21:00 AM)

    This is a poem, and it needs a larger canvass of consciousness. It is an equation of humanity where the fundamental assumption is all men are born good. And therefore all men lost be they lost to death or lost to the death of wisdom is a eternal loss, and the bell tolls for all men. I am awed by th canvass of the poem. (Report) Reply

  • Peyton Webb Peyton Webb (10/6/2012 12:41:00 PM)

    I love this poem! ! ! ! We had to read it in Advanced English and I fell in love with it. (Report) Reply

  • Ashwini Ahir (2/21/2012 11:50:00 AM)

    this one is simple and short. salute you john donne. i dont like short poems but this one just dont need to be large. everything is explained in few words. (Report) Reply

  • Carlos Echeverria (2/21/2012 10:09:00 AM)

    A distillation of philosophy and science into a classic poem.. (Report) Reply

  • Manonton Dalan (2/21/2012 4:05:00 AM)

    i trying to be an island
    but my life is connecting
    me to the mainlandmd (Report) Reply

  • Smoky Hoss (2/21/2011 7:33:00 PM)

    What would have diminished Donne more, the death of Hitler or the death of the millions in Europe who died due to his leadership? (Report) Reply

  • Howard 'the motivational poet' Simon Howard 'the motivational poet' Simon (2/21/2011 6:02:00 PM)

    As humans we are social beigns; we need relationships in order to survive. Though all nations aspire to be independent, the cry of the human heart is for interdependence. We need each other! (Report) Reply

  • Herman Chiu (2/21/2010 9:25:00 PM)

    And let mankind's civilizations never forget: Faith and Unity. (Report) Reply

  • Edmund Wong (2/21/2010 8:22:00 PM)

    I don't think Craddock is comparing Donne with Hitler. He is merely saying not all men are equal: some of them are so evil and injurious to the rest that they should not be part of humanity. If we define 'man' to be someone who deserves to be part of humanity in which every man, connected to one another, promotes the welfare of mankind as a whole, then Hitler and his likes can hardly NOT be excluded as “men”. What Donne expresses is not an argument but a petition for mercy and sympathy licensed to poetry. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (2/21/2010 6:02:00 PM)

    Relax, Craddock! Fear not, the 'poem' is really a meditation on our short span of life, written by a devout cleric who had endured his share of trespassing on what he considered God's laws. The most Donne ever did wrong was engage in some adulterous behavior with the ladies of the court! To even compare this devout man with Adolf Hitler (or Josef Stalin who was a novice cleric in the Russian Orthodox faith as a young man) is to confuse apples with oranges! One named Donne did his damned-est to disobey his God but consider the monsters known as Hitler and Stalin and what they wrought! Note also that in the West (including the USA and the UK) Stalin is forgiven his destruction of entire nations from the Volga to the Yalu and beyond! (Report) Reply

  • Terence George Craddock (2/21/2010 9:51:00 AM)

    I too like this poem, yet I cannot agree with it. Adolf Hitler is dead and I am not diminished one iota by his death. Nor am I diminished by the death of any other tyrant like him. Either before or after him. Shame on any who are. Those clods destroyed a lot more of Europe and other countries than I care to witness. The measure of that totaled loss of life and art, not to mention the suffering they caused, is no part of an island of my being. (Report) Reply

  • Joseph Poewhit (2/21/2010 3:54:00 AM)

    The body has many parts, so did the Frankenstein monster. Though, I think Donne had a different perspectine of the parts body view. (Report) Reply

  • Leonard Dabydeen Leonard Dabydeen (2/21/2010 1:48:00 AM)

    The strength of a chain is in its weakest link. All are important. All are consumate to the whole. Man shall not live by himself, but by the wisdom he acquires over time from his strengths and failures in the the environment he lives. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A Ramesh T A (2/21/2010 1:18:00 AM)

    Though each one is an individual like island all are part of the whole. Loss of one is a little loss of strength of the whole indeed! (Report) Reply










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