A Peninsular Life

Commenter Bryan D. Finch yesterday mentioned John Donne’s poem “No Man is an Island.” Afflicted with my usual insomnia and melancholy, I’ve dissented from his humanitarian sentiment with these clumsy verses.

Each man is a peninsula, connected to the main,
But on three sides beset and bound by water cold, and rain.
The rocky headland crumbles slow, the narrow isthmus caves,
While inland hearkens not one ear to the devouring waves.

And if a lighthouse it should boast,
It scans an empty sea,
Until, at last, the oil runs dry,
And breakers swamp the quay.

At last, like old Atlantis, subsides that scraggy neck,
Protrudes a while a rocky isle,
Then sinks it like a wreck.

5 thoughts on “A Peninsular Life

  1. Orthodoxy holds that we are innately connected (as in St. Silouan, “My brother is my life”) but the former Presbyterian in me struggles mightily with this.

    • I struggle as well (although more often against than with this idea of human unity). Part of my resistance comes from the fact that the claim is always accompanied by a bill, and never by a dividend. “We are all brothers, so you owe this to me (or him, or her).” Another part comes from the felt fact of alienation and loneliness. Not everyone feels existential loneliness, but those who do will hear talk of profound brotherhood as hokum.

  2. Many have struggled against the ‘hokum’: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Gal 3:28 – KJV]

    …which is, I suspect, why St Paul found it necessary to repeat: ‘…there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” [Col 3:11 – KJV]

    However, we must just do the best we can.


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