When I was 17 years old in 1965, I went on one of the most memorable dates of my life. This was the first time I heard the poem by John Donne that sparked the song. We lived in Jersey, an hour or two from NYC. The drinking age was 18 then which still had me underage so we were sober. (I got carded everywhere until I was 25.) Anyway we had tickets to a old fashion vaudeville show in “The City” which turned out to be very entertaining and quite great. We walked and talked and laughed and watched the people. Dinner came from street vendors, serenaded by the life and energy of New York. As it got later, time came to go back to the car……but where exactly did we leave it? We walked and walked and still could not find it. Somehow we ended up in the Bowery section and gained a walking companion. Granted he was an old drunk but a learned, interesting one who spoke to us of the preciousness of young love and life and truth. His oration of this poem brought tears to my eyes. In retrospect, what is most impressive craziness was that I was barefoot- my fancy heels were in my hand by then. Oh yes, we turned a corner and our friend was gone but we had found the car.
No Man is an Island by John Donne
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each 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 thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.