Serious students of literature and poetry would be familiar with the category of 17th Century poetry, termed (by Samuel Johnson),” The Metaphysical School of Poetry.” This highly intellectual style is best known for its expanded use of metaphor to relate people to inanimate subjects. The best known Metaphysical Poet would appear to be John Donne, famously known for his verse, “No Man Is an Island.” It is this 17th Century poet and his composition that provides the theme for this writing.

In words to such effect, Donne poetically sermonized that no one person exists(independently) like an isolated island but is part of an entire continent, such that if even a small bit of turf were eroded from the continent, mankind would similarly be diminished. The clear message is that all men are so interrelated that the death of one is a true loss to all. Accordingly, the final line discourages inquiry as to the identity of any deceased, for whom the (death) bell tolls, instructing that it tolls for all mankind. Novelist , Ernest Hemmingway used Donne’s words, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” for the title of his novel, centered in the Spanish Civil War, in which so many idealistic Americans lost their lives in that failed cause, fought for freedom and democracy.

Donne’s idealistic (religious) sermon, if heeded, would have seismically changed the course of history over ensuing centuries, which experienced no end of warfare of national, international, and most especially religious motivation, costing vast numbers of deaths and great human suffering. Mankind, to this date, has yet not responded to the poet’s plea for a common recognition among all human beings of universal identity and equally valuable worth.

We cannot attempt to fully recount the number and variety of sincere, but failed, efforts expended to achieve world peace and a common identity among people; two world organizations, attempts at a common language (Esperanto), treaties, cultural exchanges, international agreements and accords of every kind. Representatives of diverse ethnic groups, nationality, religious zealots, xenophobic demagogues or cynical profit seekers have variously appeared in every era, like a perennial poison ivy, to rally a challenge to peace and brotherhood. We have eternally been prevented from enjoying that idealistic concept of the one continent sung, by John Donne. What history has done, is inarguably, not Donne.

We are obliged to be repetitious in returning to a constant plinyblog theme, v iz., for as long as young children continue to be taught, explicitly as well as subtly, lessons in “we” and “they” (instead of lessons in “us”) John Donne does not stand a metaphysical chance in hell.



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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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