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What is the tone of John Donne's "Meditation 17"?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would characterize the tone of Donne's famous sermon as expressing a special kind of universality. He makes a calm, sober attempt to unite people—surprisingly, perhaps, not so much to unite them in a single faith, but in a single spirit, in which the pain and suffering of any one person can and should be felt by everyone.

Despite the religious divisions that raged in England before, during, and after Donne's own time, the Meditation XVII to me is ecumenical in tone, as if to minimize the differences among religious denominations. Perhaps this is partly due to Donne's having been brought up a Roman Catholic before converting to the Church of England. When he says, "the church is Catholic, universal," he is not, of course, alluding to Roman Catholicism, but is using the term "catholic" in its original sense, as he states, of universality, of encompassing the entire world. (In reality all Christian denominations to this day think of...

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