Nunc lento sonitu dicunt, Morieris

Now, this Bell tolling softly for another, saies to me, Thou must die.

PERCHANCE hee for whom this Bell tolls, may be so ill, as that he knowes not it tolls for him; And perchance I may thinke my selfe so much better than I am, as that they who are about mee, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for mee, and I know not that. The Church is Catholike, universall, so are all her Actions; All that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concernes mee; for that child is thereby connected to that Head which is my Head too, and engraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a Man, that action concernes me: All mankinde is of one Author, and is one volume; when one Man dies, one Chapter is not torne out of the booke, but translated into a better language; and every Chapter must be so translated; God emploies several translators; some peeces are translated by age, some by sicknesse, some by warre, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation; and his hand shall binde up all our scattered leaves againe, for that Librarie where every booke shall lie open to one another: As therefore the Bell that rings to a Sermon, calls not upon the Preacher onely, but upon the Congregation to come; so this Bell calls us all: but how much more mee, who am brought so neere the doore by this sicknesse. There was a contention as farre as a suite, (in which both pietie and dignitie, religion, and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious Orders should ring to praiers first in the Morning; and it was that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignitie of this Belle that tolls for our evening prayer, wee would bee glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that application, that it might bee ours, as wel as his, whose indeed it is. The Bell doth toll for him that thinkes it doth; and though it intermit againe, yet from that minute, that that occasion wrought upon him, hee is united to God. Who casts not up his Eye to the Sunne when it rises? but who takes off his Eye from a Comet when that breakes out? Who bends not his eare to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a peece of himselfe out of this world? 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. Neither can we call this a begging of Miserie or a borrowing of Miserie, as though we were not miserable enough of our selves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the Miserie of our Neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousnesse if wee did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured, and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into currant Monies, his treasure will not defray him as he travells. Tribulation is Treasure in the nature of it, but it is not currant money in the use of it, except wee get nearer and nearer our home, Heaven, by it. Another man may be sicke too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a Mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out, and applies that gold to mee: if by this consideration of anothers danger, I take mine owne into contemplation, and so secure my selfe, by making my recourse to my God, who is our onely securitie.

...back to Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions
Three Images Donne Uses in Meditation 17 to Develop the Idea that We Are All Part of a Common Humanity

Donne uses the images of bells, the stars, and the sun to unify all of humanity.

The example of the bell is a particularly effective point that I have not thought of before. Sound is used as a universal unifying stimuli which we can all presumably relate to. "Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings?" It is true; any language and dialect, any people, any place, none matter, for the bell's sound is the same to all.

I often look up at the starry sky and look out into the vast expanse of an unknown space. While I look, I always wonder "How many other people are doing this exact same thing right now?" I don't care where in the world you stand and look up, the sky is the biggest thing around. It is always there, always has been, and always will be until the end of this universe. And ever since man developed conscious thought and higher emotions, we have looked up at the sky, all over the world, for a number of reasons. "…but who takes off his eye from a comet…"? Definitely not me.

"Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises?" Again, a universal happening. The day begins, the day ends, and begins again; it is the same for all of humanity. The beautiful sunrise, inspiring and humbling, is an event that we cannot control, that we experience with every other human being on this Earth.

These images are very true: they break down walls between religion, race, language, sex, age, geographical location, and any other differences that occur within the human race, humanity.

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