1 December 2008
Meditation XVII Translation
The purpose of John Donne, in Meditation XVII, is to show how mankind as a whole are all spiritually connected. In the meditation, church bells are used as a metaphor of death. When a death occurs, and the bells are tolled, Donne thinks of himself as being better than the dead person, but actually a piece of him has been lost, as all people are connected through the church and “all that she does belongs to all.” So what happens to one man affects every man as well. When a child is baptized, it represents the child’s sacred connection to the church, which connects him to everyone else, since all mankind is connected. All of mankind’s connection to each other is like an open book. The death of a man does not result in his chapter being “torn out,” instead it is “translated into a better language” by God. And every person’s chapter must also be rewritten and changed, for the death of one man changes the text of the next man’s chapter, for we are all interconnected spiritually. Everyone’s a character in the book of humanity and every part is needed for it to work. There are many ways for God to translates his work: some from death “by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice,” but God is in every translation, and he is there to keep the book of mankind open and organized, for all of humanity. So, when a man dies “the bell that rings to a sermon” does not call for the “preacher only,” but for all of mankind. So when the bell tolls it tolls for all. But Donne is sick and begins to feel that the bell is calling for him much more now.
There was an argument as to who would have the honor of calling the members in for the Morning Prayer. It was determined that the one that rose the earliest would do the honors. If everybody understood the “dignity of this bell,” that’s calling for the evening prayer of the dead, then everybody should want to rise early, because all of...