John Donne, born in London in 1572 to John Donne and Elizabeth Heywood, was brought up as a Catholic. Now known mainly for his poetry, Donne was known during his life for his sermons and as the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
In 1601, Donne secretly married Ann More, niece of Lady Egerton, which caused a scandal when it was discovered, resulting in Donne’s losing his position as Sir Thomas Egerton’s secretary and brief imprisonment. The couple relied on friends and family members who were willing to help during the next years to provide a place to live and financial support.
He converted to Protestantism sometime during the ensuing 14 years and was ordained in the Church of England in 1615. Two years later, his beloved wife died after a stillbirth and Donne was heartbroken and chose never to remarry. He became famous for his eloquent and emotional sermons and was made Dean of St Paul’s in 1621. After becoming ill in the fall of 1630, he died on March 31, 1631.
Who are a little wise the best fools be. (The Triple Fool)
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. (Devotions upon Emergent Occasions no. 17)
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time. (The Sun Rising)
No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face. (The Autumnal)
For God’s sake, hold your tongue and let me love! (The Canonization)
Love built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies. (Elegy II: The Anagram)
Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks. (The Bait)
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.
For, those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me. (Holy Sonnet X)
Death comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes.
Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.
If I dream I have you, I have you,
For, all our joys are but fantastical. (The Dream)
O how feeble is man’s power,
That if good fortune fall,
Cannot add another hour,
Nor a lost hour recall! (song)
If we consider eternity, into that time never entered; eternity is not an everlasting flux of time, but time is as a short parenthesis in a long period; and eternity had been the same as it is, though time had never been. (Book of Devotions)
I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so. (The Complete English Poems)
And who understands? Not me, because if I did I would forgive it all.
More than kisses, letters mingle souls; For, thus friends absent speak.
To know and feel all this and not have the words to express it makes a human a grave of his own thoughts.
Death is an ascension to a better library.
Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing.
Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new. (Holy Sonnets)
Other men’s crosses are not my crosses.
Reason is our soul’s left hand, Faith her right,
By these we reach divinity.
Filled with her love, may I be rather grown
Mad with much heart, than idiot with none. (The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose)
That thou remember them, some claim as debt; I think it mercy, if thou wilt forget. (John Donne’s Poetry)
This is joy’s bonfire, then, where love’s strong arts
Make of so noble individual parts
One fire of four inflaming eyes, and of two loving hearts. (The Complete English Poems)
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat. (Valediction: Forbidding Mourning)
He that desires to print a book, should much more desire, to be a book.
Doubt wisely; in strange way
To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;
To sleep, or run wrong, is.
Poor heretics there be,
Which think to establish dangerous constancy,
But I have told them,
‘Since you will be true,
You shall be true to them, who are false to you.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For, he tames it, that fetters it in verse.
Stay, O sweet, and do not rise;
The light that shines comes from thine eyes;
The day breaks not, it is my heart,
Because that you and I must part. (Selected Poems)
Changed loves are but changed sorts of meat,
And when he hath the kernel eat,
Who doth not fling away the shell?
Wicked is not much worse than indiscreet.
Thy sins and hairs may no man equal call,
For as thy sins increase, thy hairs do fall. (The Complete English Poems)
Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore
My love was infinite, if spring makes it more.
Nature hath no goal, though she hath law.
It was part of Adam’s punishment, In the sweat of thy brows thou shalt eat thy bread: it is multiplied to me, I have earned bread in the sweat of my brows, in the labour of my calling, and I have it; and I sweat again and again, from the brow to the sole of the foot, but I eat no bread, I taste no sustenance: miserable distribution of mankind, where one half lacks meat, and the other stomach! (Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions Together with Death’s Duel)
Contemplative and bookish men must of necessity be more quarrelsome than others, because neither do they contend about matters of fact nor can they determine their controversies by any certain witnesses or judges. (Complete Poetical Works)
You are earth; he whom you tread upon is no less, and he that treads upon you is no more. (The Showing Forth of Christ: Sermons of John Donne)