Famous John Donne Quotes with Analysis
Quote: "Death be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so. / For, those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow. / Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me." (From Holy Sonnet X).
Literary Device: Donne uses a form of personification known as apostrophe, the act of addressing an inanimate object, an idea, or an individual not present. In this case, death is the personified hearer.
Analysis: Death comes to all, but it has no reason to boast, according to Donne's Holy Sonnet X. Donne, of course, refers to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as recorded in Christian theology, a resurrection that makes death temporary.
Quote: "Go and catch a falling star, / Get with child a mandrake root, / Tell me, where all past years are, / Or who cleft the Devil's foot, / Teach me to hear mermaids singing." (From Song: Go and Catch a Falling Star)
Literary Devices: Donne uses hyperbole, a deliberate exaggeration, allusion, a reference to something that is well known and metaphor, the comparison of two seemingly unlike things.
Analysis: Donne comments on the impossibility of finding a virtuous, beautiful woman by comparing the task to doing notoriously impossible things.
Quote: "As states subsist in part by keeping their weaknesses from being known, so is it the quiet of families to have their chancery and their parliament within doors, and to compose and determine all emergent differences there."
Literary Device: Donne compares government to families using a simile.
Analysis: Donne comments on the wisdom of keeping family problems private by comparing them to the conventional wisdom of covering state weaknesses.
Quote: “License my roving hands, and let them go / Before, behind, between, above, below. / O my America! my new found land, / My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned.” (To His Mistress Going to Bed).
Literary Device: Metaphor
Analysis: Donne compares the exploration of his fair mistress to the exploration of the American continent by explorers.
Quote: “No man is an island, / Entire of itself. / Each is a piece of the continent, / A part of the main.” (From Meditations XVII)
Literary Device: Metaphor
Analysis: Donne compares all of humanity to a continent and each individual a part of that continent.
Quote: “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls / It tolls for thee.” (From Meditations XVII).
Literary Device: Allusion and Symbolism
Analysis: Donne alludes to the tolling of a bell, symbolizing one’s death to accentuate that each person affects every other person and that when one dies a part of everyone dies.
Quote: “I am two fools, I know, / For loving, and for saying so / In whining poetry.” (From The Triple Fool)
Literary Device: Hyperbole
Analysis: Donne pokes fun at himself with the hyperbolic accusation that he is a double fool.
- Donne, Johne. Various Poems
- All images are in the public domain.
This post is part of the series: John Donne Study Guide
- Significant Quotes From John Donne
- Meaning and Poetic Devices in "Love's Alchemy" by John Donne
- Analysis of John Donne's Famous Poems: For Whom the Bell Tolls
- John Donne Poetry Analysis: "The Flea"