Byzant MysticalTarotSymbolsKabbalahBiographyAstrologyScriptorium

Quotations from John Donne


Affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it.

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, meditation 17 (1624)

And new Philosophy calls all in doubt,
The element of fire is quite put out;
The Sun is lost, and th'earth, and no mans wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.

An Anatomie of the World, The First Anniversary

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
The breath goes now, and some say no.

Valediction: Forbidden Mourning

Be thine own palace, or the world's thy jail.

Verse Letter to Sir Henry Wotton

But I do nothing upon myself, and yet am mine own Executioner.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, meditation 12 (1624)

Contemplative and bookish men must of necessitie be more quarrelsome than others, because they contend not about matter of fact, nor can determine their controversies by any certain witnesses, nor judges. But as long as they goe towards peace, that is Truth, it is no matter which way.

Biathanatos, Preface (1646)

For Godsake hold your tongue and let me love.

The Canonization

Full nakedness! All my joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,
To taste whole joys.

Elegies, To His Mistress Going to Bed (1669)

God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice.

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, meditation 17 (1624)

He must pull out his own eyes, and see no creature, before he can say, he sees no God; He must be no man, and quench his reasonable soul, before he can say to himself, there is no God.

Eighty Sermons, sermon 23 (1640)

Humiliation is the beginning of sanctification.

Eighty Sermons, sermon 7 (1640)

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining Poetry.

The Triple Fool

I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.

Eighty Sermons, sermon 80 (1640)

I would not that death should take me asleep. I would not have him meerly seise me, and onely declare me to be dead, but win me, and overcome me. When I must shipwrack, I would do it in a sea, where mine impotencie might have some excuse; not in a sullen weedy lake, where I could not have so much as exercise for my swimming.

Letter (September, 1608)

Let us love nobly, and live, and add again
Years and years unto years, till we attain
To write threescore: this is the second of
our reign.

The Anniversary

License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.

Elegies, To His Mistress Going to Bed (1669)

Love was as subtly catched, as a disease;
But being got it is a treasure sweet,
Which to defend is harder than to get:
And ought not be prophaned on either part,
For though 'tis got by chance, 'tis kept by art.

The Expostulation

Man is not only a contributory creature, but a total creature; he does not only make one, but he is all; he is not a piece of the world, but the world itself; and next to the glory of God, the reason why there is a world.

Sermons, number 35 (1625)

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main. … Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, meditation 17 (1624)

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die!

Death be not Proud

Reason is our soul’s left hand, Faith her right,
By these we reach divinity.

Verse Letter to the Countess of Bedford (c.1607-8)

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls.
For, thus friends absent speak.

Verse letter to Sir Henry Wotton

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Holy Sonnets, number 14

To be no part of any body, is to be nothing.

Letter to Sir Henry Goodyer (September, 1608)

To be part of no body is as nothing; and so I am. ... I am rather a sickness or a disease of the world than any part of it and therefore neither love it nor life.


We are all conceived in close prison; in our mothers’ wombs, we are close prisoners all; when we are born, we are born but to the liberty of the house; prisoners still, though within larger walls; and then all our life is but a going out to the place of execution, to death.

Eighty Sermons, sermon 27 (1640)

When I died last, and, Dear, I die
As often as from thee I go
Though it be but an hour ago,
And lovers’ hours be full eternity.

The Legacy

When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, meditation 17 (1624)

Whensoever any affliction assails me, mee thinks I have the keyes of my prison in mine owne hand, and no remedy presents it selfe so soone to my heart, as mine own sword. Often meditation of this hath wonne me to a charitable interpretation of their action, who dy so: and provoked me a little to watch and exagitate their reasons, which pronounce so peremptory judgements upon them.

On suicide, Biathanatos, Preface (1646)

Wicked is not much worse than indiscreet.

An Anatomy of the World, The First Anniversary (1611)

Click the Amazon logo to find books by or about John Donne or the Bing logo to search the web for more information.

Search Bing Search Amazon