Treasure Island

John Donne

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

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No Man Is An Island


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003
Edited: Thursday, May 30, 2013
# 29 poem on top 500 Poems

User Rating:
413,230.8 / 10 ( 242 votes )

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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 this poem (No Man Is An Island by John Donne )

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  • Herbert Guitang (4/25/2014 8:13:00 AM)

    this poem opens many people in too much in solitude. A perfect piece. One of the greatest poem (Report) Reply

  • Vizard Dhawan (2/21/2014 2:11:00 PM)

    John donne piece always takes me to a new world of meaning of life...! ! !

    Superb write...! ! (Report) Reply

  • Stephen W (2/21/2014 11:18:00 AM)

    Well done indeed to Randall Stevenson! All too often we don't have the cultural context we need to fully understand an archaic poem. (Report) Reply

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 (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

  • 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 (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

Read all 38 comments »

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