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Meditation 17 is a contemplation written by John Donne. He is considered to be the foremost metaphysical poet. Born Catholic, Donne aspired in his youth to be a courtier. He was appointed to a higher position in the Anglican Church and he became a great preacher. At age twelve Donne studied at Oxford, because of his religion, he was rejected from taking a degree, so he went back to London to study law. Donne became the secretary of Thomas Egerton, lord keeper of the great seal. This position was the start of his career but in 1601, Donne married a seventeen-year-old Anne More without her father’s consent. Anne’s father had Donne jailed and dismissed from his position. Donne continued to write poetry in private and prose for the public. He wrote against the Church of Rome and became known as an important defender of the Church of England. Later his excellent sermons won him advancement in the Church and he rose to be dean of St. Paul’s.
The opening of “Meditation 17” refers to the practice in Donne’s time of ringing church bells to announce the death of a church member. Donne writes on the significance of the tolling bells: “As therefore the bell that rings… calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all”. The tone of this sentence is serious and melancholy. This meditation is about Donne’s contemplation on approaching death. Hearing a church bell signifying a funeral, he observes that every death diminishes the large fabric of humanity. In this world we are all together, and we use the suffering of others to learn how to live better so that we are better prepared for our own death, which is merely a translation to another world which in this case is heaven. The style of this meditation is both metaphysical and cavalier because it is deep and profound and it talks about life matters and how to live life. Meditation 17 is based on several metaphors that develop the theme that everyone is part of a common humanity. Humanity is a book and God is the author. Each person is a chapter in the book. When a person dies, his or her chapter is translated into the afterlife.
By analyzing this meditation I gained a different type of way on seeing life because we are so discriminative and judgmental that we forget we are all the same. When Donne says: “All mankind is of one author and is one volume…” he is telling us that we are all creations of God. All mankind are interconnected because God made us all. Also when he says that “affliction is a treasure” it causes men to grow and mature and make them gain wisdom from perceiving another’s suffering. I believe that no one is prepared for death but when death comes we have to be open in a way that we have no regrets and know that it is not the end because a new chapter begins in the afterlife. I have no opinion in which I can say death is something beautiful because it is not, death is something hard in which people always have trouble going through it. When I was reading this meditation it felt like I was contemplating with it because I could relate with the lost of my brother. When God took my brother it felt like the end it felt like nothing mattered, all I asked is why? Then I figured maybe if my brother didn’t die I would have never known who my real father was. His death made me gain wisdom and made me realize that life is so short and we really have to live life to the fullest with no regrets.
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