John Donne, No Man is an Island

The Weekly Word:
is an invitation to reflect on how God speaks to us through poetry, literature, and the visual arts. Share your reflections below so that we can join together on this journey of faith throughout the week.


John Donne, No Man is an Island (1624)
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.


For Reflection
Donne’s haunting plea for empathy and compassion was grounded in his faith as an Anglican priest. What scriptures and rituals in our Methodist tradition teach us that no person is an island? What prayers can we offer and what missions can we support to affirm this belief that suffering anywhere is a concern for Christians everywhere?

2 Replies to “John Donne, No Man is an Island”

  1. Not an easy poem to understand, but I think all of the tragic activities–hurricane, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and their aftermath is definitely a way for us to see how such devastation effects everyone. However, if you listen to how people come together for support and assist with all of the after mass you definitely can see Christ working through these tragedies. Praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow!!

  2. Thank you Perry for your reflection. Yes, the language is a bit dated but context may be helpful: the poem was written in the midst of the bloody Thirty Years War in England and so reflects Donne’s desire for peace in his Christian country. Donne was not only a poet but a priest in the Church of England, and here we find his expression of common humanity shared by all – in both the bad times and the good – and a plea for unity based on this shared humanity rather than strife. How relevant a plea for us today?!