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.
John Donne (1572-1631) was born into a prominent Catholic family but converted to the Church of England in his twenties. At the age of eleven he entered Oxford University for a period of three years, and then Cambridge, but he never took a degree. In 1615 he became an Anglican priest, and in 1621 the dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Donne’s poetry, prose and sermons were famous for their eloquence, subtlety, psychological analysis and brilliance, especially as they described the complex paradoxes of the human condition.