From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

John Donne Funeral Poetry

I’ve enjoyed some of John Donne’s poetry since college (Batter My Heart is one of my favorites). The force of some of his writing is coming home to me, as I’ve had several funerals in the past month – some of them of good friends. Often I will use a piece of Donne’s poetry at graveside, but not all of it. Maybe I just don’t have the guts to read it aloud. So I want to share it here – and hope that it will give some comfort to the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

This is excerpted from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, chapter 17:

All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all….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 bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

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