Thoughts for the Day

Thursday, 25th November 2021: John Donne

Faith Psalm 5 Eternal Life Heaven

Reading : Verses from Psalm 5

John Donne

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch....

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favour as with a shield.

(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


Today, in our calendar of prayer we remember John Donne, a poet. His work is much loved. He was born in 1572 into a Catholic family, and attended both Oxford (aged 11 years old) and Cambridge universities but never received a degree because of being a catholic. He became an Anglican and served the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, but after secretly marrying his employer's niece, be lived in total poverty for some time. With the encouragement of King James I he became a priest and rose to be Dean of St Paul's cathedral.

In his Holy Sonnets we see how he grappled with great truths. We know is words in phrases like “No man is an island” and “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” His sonnet on death shows his total belief in resurrection and eternal life. The following is a modern version of his poem, the original text can be seen under 'Further Thoughts':

'Death, don't be proud - even though some people have said you are
mighty and dreadful. You are not mighty and dreadful.
Those people you think that you destroy
don't die, and you can't really kill me either. Poor Death!
Death is like rest and sleep, and from rest and sleep we get
much pleasure. So to be dead must be even more pleasurable
and the sooner the best people in the world die the better,
O Death who gives rest to their bones and delivers their soul (to heaven).
You are a servant to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And your companions are poison, war, and sickness,
And, anyway, poppies or charms can make us sleep even
better than you can. Why do you swell with pride, then?
After a short sleep, we will be awake forever (in heaven)
and death will exist no longer. Death, it is you who will die.'
(Anonymous translation).

It is not only our Bible that can lead us to God, or to understand what He offers. Poetry can also help.


Heavenly Father,
like Donne we grapple with eternal Truths
throughout our life.
We cope with questions about death,
and about Heaven and Hell,
knowing that the only certainty is death.
Give us faith to look beyond the questions
and to trust in Your promises.

Follow Up Thoughts

The original text for 'Death be not proud' is here:

See another poem by Donne - 'No man is an island' in both old English and modern language':

Alternatively you might like to look up 'Christian Poetry Collection' by Stephen Ross:

Return to index