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Devotions: Upon Emergent Occasions, Together…

Devotions: Upon Emergent Occasions, Together with Death's Duel (Ann… (original 1624; edition 1959)

by John Donne

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Title:Devotions: Upon Emergent Occasions, Together with Death's Duel (Ann Arbor Paperbacks)
Authors:John Donne
Info:University of Michigan Press (1959), Edition: Edition Unstated, Paperback, 246 pages
Collections:Your library

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Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Death's Duel by John Donne (1624)



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My own fascination with John Donne reminds me of the attempts by others to reassure their friends and family regarding death. Socrates did so in the Phaedo by describing his life as one long attempt to prepare for death. His view was echoed and enhanced by Montaigne who, In his essay titled “That to Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die,” turns to mortality and points to the understanding of death as a prerequisite for the understanding of life, for the very art of living.
"[L]et us learn bravely to stand our ground, and fight him. And to begin to deprive him of the greatest advantage he has over us, let us take a way quite contrary to the common course. Let us disarm him of his novelty and strangeness, let us converse and be familiar with him, and have nothing so frequent in our thoughts as death. "(Montaigne, Essays)
But one more example from my reading can be found in Rainier Maria Rilke's beautiful novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Through Rilke's fascination with faces and appearances the importance of constructing an authentic life is emphasized. This becomes a prerequisite for the prospect of a unique personal death. Death itself is a character in the novel, a "terrible rival", which may seem stronger than the living in its tolling.

The tolling of the bell in Rilke's novel signalling death brings us back to Donne who penned these famous lines:

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: 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, 17) ( )
  jwhenderson | Jul 30, 2015 |
These meditations and prayers of John Donne are a difficult read - but worth the effort - most of us try to deny the reality of death by almost any means - here is a man struggling to accept death - struggling to find peace while life is slipping away - drawing out important spiritual lessons in the midst of suffering. ( )
1 vote ctpress | Mar 18, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375705481, Paperback)

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Death's Duel, one of the handsome series of Vintage Spiritual Classics, contains a rich collection of extraordinary writings, any one of which would be worth the price of the whole book. Andrew Motion's clear, accessible, entertaining, and erudite introduction explains the situation of both Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions--written in 1624, when Donne was feeble with a fever that doctors believed might kill him--and Death's Duel--Donne's final sermon at St. Paul's Cathedral, preached only a month before his death at age 59. Also included is Izaak Walton's The Life of Dr. John Donne, a spry and penetrating biography of the poet, written in 1640. And then there is the meat: both Devotions and Death's Duel show Donne at his very best--theatrical, humble, faithful, and doubting all at once. This is a book of severe and joyful mortality. Here is a foretaste from Devotions: "Death is in an old man's door, he appears and tells him so, and death is at a young man's back, and says nothing.... There is scarce anything that hath not killed somebody; a hair, a feather hath done it; nay, that which is our best antidote against it hath done it; the best cordial hath been deadly poison." --Michael Joseph Gross

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:03 -0400)

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