John Donne's Sermon Preached at the Spital
by John Donne
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Most people who know the name “John Donne” remember the man for his poetry. During
his lifetime, however, Donne had achieved fame for his sermons, and he expected they
would remain his claim to fame as the centuries passed. Donne delivered this sermon
at the Priory of St. Mary Without Bishopgate, a hospital and almshouse founded in
1197. Every year since the 14th century, a prominent English clergyman has come to
the hospital to give a sermon, often on the topic of the Resurrection or the spread of
Truth. In 1622, Donne spoke on learning the truth of God’s glory. To acquiring this
great knowledge, he said, one must first learn that all the glory of the world is a “mere
nothing.” Readers of Donne will recognize in this sermon the same theme of the tension
between worldliness and spirituality they find throughout his poetry.
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