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Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

By: John Donne

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, or in full Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes, is a prose work by the English metaphysical poet and cleric in the Church of England John Donne, published in 1624. It covers death, rebirth and the Elizabethan concept of sickness as a visit from God, reflecting internal sinfulness. The Devotions were written in December 1623 as Donne recovered from a serious but unknown illness – believed to be relapsing fever or typhus. Having come close to death, he described the illness he had suffered from and his thoughts throughout his recovery with "near super-human speed and concentration". Registered by 9 January, and published soon after, the Devotions is one of only seven works attributed to Donne which were printed during his lifetime.

The Devotions is divided into 23 parts, each consisting of 3 sub-sections, called the 'meditation', the "expostulation' and a prayer. The 23 sections are chronologically ordered, each covering his thoughts and reflections on a single day of the illness. Famously, the 17th devotion, Meditation XVII, includes the phrases "No man is an Iland" (often modernised as "No man is an island") and "...for whom the bell tolls". The work as a whole is considered similar to 17th-century devotional writing generally, and particularly to Donne's Holy Sonnets. Some academics have also identified political strands running through the work, possibly from a polemic Arminian denunciation of Puritanism to advise the young Prince Charles.

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John Donne


John Donne was an English poet, scholar, soldier and secretary born into a recusant family, who later became a cleric in the Church of England. Under royal patronage, he was made Dean of St Paul's Cat...

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