The Bell Tolls

It has been my pleasure to have lived in a small town in southwestern Minnesota where church bells peal out the hour, calls to worship, wedding bells, and funeral tolls. Presently I live near a college campus where bells chime each evening.  If you have had the experience of attending a concert that included the use of bells, I am sure you found the bells a unique musical treat.

The book, Where is God When it Hurts,” by Phillip Yancy takes time to reveal the pain of tragedy through which John Donne traveled.  Donne lived from 1572 to 1631.  According to Yancy, the poet and devotional writer, Donne, experienced pain both physically and emotionally.  A book review will follow in another post when I finish the book.

Today I turn your attention to Meditation XVII.  This is one of 22 meditations lifted from Donne’s personal journal.  A plague was moving through London and Donne was lying bedfast worried about contracting the bubonic plague himself.  Regularly he heard the church bells tolling out the age of the deceased. It was during one of those moments when Donne wrote the still familiar lines, “. . . ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. . .” In the course of the last four hundred years that line has been used and misused.

Donne, who thought he was dying, was also an Anglican priest.  While the contents of his Meditations are not Scripture-filled, they are quite Biblically sound.  In the same paragraph as the quoted line:  “. . . never send for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” lies an introductory line:  “No man is an island. . .”  The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14:6-8 “. . . for none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. . .we are the Lord’s.”

Life is short; live it well.

This meditation is included in the British Literature Book from ABEKA Publishing, but since it is public domain, may be found at


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