John Donne Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

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

Expert Answers info

Michael Ugulini eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write607 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Business, and History

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

check Approved by eNotes Editorial