What does John Donne mean with regard to the first sentence in "Meditation 17”?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

With regard to the first sentence in "Meditation 17”, John Donne means that someone may have death at their door and not even really know it. The first line of Meditation 17 reads:

“Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him.”

Donne is saying that someone may be very ill - this could be physically and/or mentally, as Donne does not specify here. He leaves it up to the reader to decide in this very first line, although the typical reasoning here would probably be thinking of someone who has an injury or disease or serious sickness. Nonetheless, mental illness can lead to a person’s death as well.

Regardless, Donne is saying...

(The entire section contains 391 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team