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,
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.

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

  • (6/22/2018 11:21:00 PM)

    Good pome (Report) Reply

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  • (5/27/2018 7:15:00 PM)

    He was saying England is better as part of Europe and Europe is better with England. For whom the Bells Toll... they toll for me. (Report) Reply

  • (5/22/2018 10:51:00 AM)

    When someone in the town died, the church bells would ring, or toll. If you didn't know who it was that had died, you might send your servant out to find out. So, to send to know for whom the bell tolls means to send someone to find out who has died. Donne is saying that anyone's death is equivalent to your own death, as we are all part of mankind. (Report) Reply

  • (5/11/2018 2:17:00 AM)

    Very nice (Report) Reply

  • (5/9/2018 9:59:00 AM)

    3.what does he mean by bell tolls (Report) Reply

    (5/22/2018 10:53:00 AM)

    When someone died, the town church bells would ring (or toll) . If you didn't know who had died, you might send a servant to find out. So, to send to know for whom the bell tolls means to send someone to find out who has died. Donne is saying that anyone's death is equivalent to your own, as we are all part of mankind.

    (5/15/2018 4:19:00 PM)

    When they used to have bells in the church Belfry (bell tower) and they rang them, they were said to toll, the bells, possibly from the word toil, because they were laborious to ring.

  • (5/9/2018 9:59:00 AM)

    1.does man mean as if everyone will follow his steps he trying to say we are all connected 3. (Report) Reply

  • (4/30/2018 6:39:00 PM)

    WHY do people keep quoting it as a poem when it isn't, and never was? (Report) Reply

    (6/18/2018 12:39:00 PM)

    It may not be poetry in the strictest sense but it's far from prosaic. It's in the interpretation of the reader, I think, but to me it falls closer to poetry than prose, perhaps that's a reflection of the amount of poetry Donne wrote, a pattern of expression. Maybe we need a third category? Donnetry?

  • (4/22/2018 7:52:00 PM)


  • (4/13/2018 5:11:00 PM)

    I think this is especially poignant in regards to the tragedy unfolding in Syria at this time (Report) Reply

  • (4/12/2018 9:56:00 AM)

    This poem makes me moist inside (Report) Reply

  • (4/12/2018 9:55:00 AM)

    That roast action though (Report) Reply

  • (4/11/2018 1:22:00 AM)

    This is the best poem ever because every time i practice i fell better because i did not use to it. (Report) Reply

  • (3/23/2018 1:35:00 AM)

    We have the hope resurrection when Christ return (Report) Reply

  • (2/28/2018 8:30:00 AM)

    My name is jeff (Report) Reply

    (3/1/2018 10:27:00 AM)

    Hi, , , ghhgvffhikkmmkoiijkvfsghkiytdcbj

  • (2/5/2018 11:32:00 AM)

    Encouraging.i love the first line (Report) Reply

  • (1/21/2018 9:25:00 AM)

    Or, as every fan of the Yes Minister series can't help hearing now: ...It tolls for THEE, Bernard! Not that this episode detracted from the sense of the thing.

    Looking it up because I wanted to remember it to friends involved in elder care and get it right. But not just now, maybe. Not sure they're in the mood.
    (Report) Reply

  • (1/14/2018 6:57:00 PM)

    Love the Movie For Whom the bells toll. (Report) Reply

  • (1/13/2018 2:05:00 PM)

    Oh dear, oh dear. This website, which should be a reliable reference, lineates this famous passage as if John Donne were writing free verse several centuries ahead of his time. This is more than misleading. It's flat-out wrong. The passage is from one of his sermons, not his poetry. It isn't a poem at all. (Report) Reply

    (1/15/2018 11:53:00 PM)

    Oh dear, oh dear. Sneering is bad, and reflects badly on the sneerer. It’s made very clear that this passage was written as prose - “lineated”, if you will; the fact that it’s cited as poetry indicates Donne’s awareness of the rhythms of English speech.

  • (1/1/2018 2:18:00 PM)

    The Almighty God stipulated two commandments as great. In fact he stated all the Law and the Prophets hang upon them. John Donne caught the simplest of concepts.. (Report) Reply

  • (11/24/2017 6:39:00 AM)

    Always relative but I hope to be on this mortal coil for at least another 30 years! I want this read out at my funeral and for everyone to cry!
    Patricia Lingley
    (Report) Reply

    (5/19/2018 7:05:00 PM)

    So you don't want to shuffle off this mortal coil?

Read all 105 comments »

# 31 poem on top 500 Poems

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Read poems about / on: sea, death, friend

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

Poem Edited: Thursday, May 30, 2013

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