Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Analysis of "Meditation XVII" by John Donne

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Meditation XVII" by John Donne
Originally read: March 9, 2013
More information about the Poet:  John Donne



So I just want to point out that I found this on Poem Hunter first.  Then after doing some research that Poem Hunter didn't post a poem but a prose piece -- a meditation of John Donne.  I'm not much of a John Donne scholar so please forgive me for not knowing (and those who might find this useful for you exam/question/essay, heed this as a big warning to go to the other sites that have better analysis).

Then after doing some research about this meditation, then reading it -- there's a lot of consistency with "Holy Sonnet VII" and "No Man is an Island" (well duh the phrases are in here), but furthermore, this is shows a more linkable connection between both poems -- meaning, style, theme, etc.

And of course the meditation is about death, the soul, and religion then.  I'm not going to go over the entire meditation word by word because that's not what prose is about (I don't want to start up that prose vs poetry debate again -- yeah okay).  I think prose is more focused on the overall message and poems focus on the details getting there.  Sure prose could be about the details, and poems could be more about the overall -- but for me and my background, that's how I see both until the writer trains me to read the work in a different way.

Anyway,  I'm going to focus on some quotes that I got from the piece:

"When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into better a better language." This metaphor does a lot -- synechdoche (man is a page of a book), allegory (translated to a "better language" a sort of transcendence).  Here I feel that Donne is trying to find an emotional core -- reasoning -- spiritually on why we pass on.  I think there's comfort knowing that everyone passes on, no one directly chosen to live forever...well one.

"so this bell calls us all" "The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth"  So there's a long passage which focuses on the idea of the bell tolling -- there's focus on sound, symbolism and meaning.  The bell does represent a funeral bell, and at the same time an inviting bell for those to follow (into the next life) "If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer."

"No man is an island is an island, entire of itself."  This line happens after the bell sequence -- as though to reinforce that there's another place after death, and, furthermore, that man is "part" of something spiritual and/or physical and the world wouldn't be the same without him.

The next part I didn't highlight, but underline the number of times her wrote "misery" and "affliction" which is predominate towards the end.  This is more real.  This is more based on Donne's physical ailments -- so much so that "This affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine."  I'm pretty sure that this is a pretty bad metaphor in which Donne is trying to bring the physical reality to the constructed reality based on meditation and religion. 

Yeah the gold in the bowels part...no.

The last line reinforces that belief in god, "by making my recourse to my God who is our only security."  Note in order to believe, Donne has to apply belief to everyone -- that everyone is going to go where he wants to go -- imagines them to go -- he's not alone.


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