Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne
            At inde
Mortuus es, Sonitu celeri,
     pulsuque agitato.

The Bell rings out, and tells
me in him, that I am dead.

THE Bell rings out; the pulse thereof is changed; the tolling was a faint, and intermitting pulse, upon one side; this stronger, and argues more and better life. His soule is gone out; and as a Man, who had a lease of 1000. yeeres after the expiration of a short one, or an inheritance after the life of a man in a consumption, he is now entred into the possession of his better estate. His soule is gone; whither? Who saw it come in, or who saw it goe out? No body; yet every body is sure, he had one, and hath none. If I will aske meere Philosophers, what the soule is, I shall finde amongst them, that will tell me, it is nothing, but the temperament and harmony, and just and equall composition of the Elements in the body, which produces all those faculties which we ascribe to the soule; and so, in it selfe is nothing, no separable substance, that overlives the body. They see the soule is nothing else in other Creatures, and they affect an impious humilitie, to think as low of Man. But if my soule were no more than the soul of a beast, I could not thinke so; that soule that can reflect upon it selfe, consider it selfe, is more than so. If I will aske, not meere Philosophers, but mixt men, Philosophicall Divines, how the soule, being a separate substance, enters into Man, I shall finde some that will tell me, that it is by generation, and procreation from parents, because they thinke it hard, to charge the soule with the guiltiness of originall sinne, if the soule were infused into a body, in which it must necessarily grow foule, and contract originall sinne, whether it will or no; and I shall finde some that will tell mee, that it is by immediate infusion from God, because they think it hard, to maintaine an immortality in such a soule, as should be begotten, and derived with the body from mortall parents. If I will aske, not a few men, but almost whole bodies, whole Churches, what becomes of the soules of the righteous, at the departing thereof from the body, I shall bee told by some, That they attend an expiation, a purification in a place of torment; By some, that they attend the fruition of the sight of God, in a place of rest; but yet, but of expectation; By some, that they passe to an immediate possession of the Presence of God. S. Augustine studied the nature of the soule, as much as anything, but the salvation of the soule; and he sent an expresse Messenger to Saint Hierome, to consult of some things concerning the soule: But he satisfies himselfe with this: Let the departure of my soule to salvation be evident to my faith, and I care the lesse, how darke the entrance of my soule, into my body, bee to my reason. It is the going out, more than the comming in, that concernes us. This soule, this Bell tells me, is gone out; Whither? Who shall tell mee that? I know not who it is; much less what he was; The condition of the man, and the course of his life, which should tell mee whither hee is gone, I know not. I was not there in his sicknesse, nor at his death; I saw not his way, nor his end, nor can aske them, who did, thereby to conclude, or argue, whither he is gone. But yet I have one neerer mee than all these; mine owne Charity; I aske that; and that tels me, He is gone to everlasting rest, and joy, and glory: I owe him a good opinion; it is but thankfull charity in mee, because I received benefit and instruction from him when his Bell told: and I, being made the fitter to pray by that disposition, wherein I was assisted by his occasion, did pray for him; and I pray not without faith; so I doe charitably, so I do faithfully beleeve, that that soule is gone to everlasting rest, and joy, arid glory. But for the body, how poore a wretched thing is that? wee cannot expresse it so fast, as it growes worse and worse. That body which scarce three minutes since was such a house, as that that soule, which made but one step from thence to Heaven, was scarse thorowly content, to leave that for Heaven: that body hath lost the name of a dwelling house, because none dwells in it, and is making haste to lose the name of a body, and dissolve to putrefaction. Who would not bee affected, to see a cleere and sweet River in the Morning, grow a kennell of muddy land water by noone, and condemned to the saltnesse of the Sea by night? And how lame a picture, how faint a representation is that, of the precipitation of mans body to dissolution! Now all the parts built up, and knit by a lovely soule, now but a statue of clay, and now, these limbs melted off, as if that clay were but snow; and now, the whole house is but a handfull of sand, so much dust, and but a pecke of rubbidge, so much bone. If he, who, as this Bell tells mee, is gone now, were some excellent Artificer, who comes to him for a clocke, or for a garment now? or for counsaile, if hee were a Lawyer? If a Magistrate, for Justice? Man, before hee hath his immortall soule, hath a soule of sense, and a soule of vegetation before that: This immortall soule did not forbid other soules, to be in us before, but when this soule departs, it carries all with it; no more vegetation, no more sense: such a Mother in law is the Earth, in respect of our naturall mother; in her wombe we grew; and when she was delivered of us, wee were planted in some place, in some calling in the world; In the wombe of the earth, wee diminish, and when shee is deliverd of us, our grave opened for another, wee are not transplanted, but transported, our dust blowne away with prophane dust, with every wind

Source :
Donne, John.  The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne.
Charles M. Coffin, Ed. New York: Modern Library, 1952. 442-444.
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