The King James Bible & John Donne


The King James Bible

The Biblical account of Creation is fascinating. As you read, look for passages that explain the existence of the planets, stars, and creatures in our universe.

The following Biblical selections are taken from The King James Bible, which was printed in 1611. King James of England appointed fifty--four scholars and theologians to work on the new translation in 1604, The resulting translation was recognized by the church and accepted by the people. The eloquent style of The King James Bible makes it not only an outstanding religious work, but also a great literary achievement. Since the time of King James, the Bible has become the best--selling book ever published.

"The Book of Genesis" The King James Bible

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

The Creation Chapter 2

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil....
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed

The Creation Chapter 3

Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?
And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field: in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art,and unto dust shalt thou return.
And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Discussion Questions for "Genesis"

Recall and Interpret
1. In your own words, describe the things God creates each day. Why are man and woman created last?
2. For what reasons do Adam and Eve disobey God and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? What causes Adam and Eve to be ashamed of their nakedness and afraid to meet God?
3. Why might the different punishments God imposes on Adam, Eve, and the serpent be fitting? What have Adam and Eve lost? Explain.

Evaluate and Connect
4. The last four paragraphs from chapter 2 are often read at wedding ceremonies. Why might they be suitable for a wedding?
5. This selection contains much repetition (see page R13). How does repetition enhance the meaning and beauty of the message?

King James Bible "Psalm 23"

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Discussion Questions for "Psalm 23"

Recall and Interpret
1. The speaker compares the Lord to both a shepherd and a host. Why are these metaphors fitting? Think of another metaphor the speaker could use. Why is this metaphor appropriate?
2. What is "the valley of the shadow of death'? Why does the speaker "fear no evil"?
3. What does the speaker conclude in the last stanza? Explain what the speaker might mean by this.

Evaluate and Connect
4. Many people read Psalm 23 for comfort in times of distress. Why would Psalm 23 be likely to bring comfort during a difficult time? During what occasions might it be appropriate for someone to read this psalm?
5. Theme Connections: How does this psalm illustrate the speaker's trust or devotion? What is the speaker's source of inspiration?

John Donne


John Donne's Biography

1572–1631, English poet and divine. He is considered the greatest of the metaphysical poets. Reared a Roman Catholic, Donne was educated at Oxford, Cambridge, and Lincoln's Inn. He achieved a reputation as a poet and public personage. His writing of this period, including some of his Songs and Sonnets (others were written as late as 1617) and Problems and Paradoxes, consist of cynical, realistic, often sensual lyrics, essays, and verse satires.
Donne's court career was ruined by the discovery of his marriage in 1601 to Anne More. After 1601 his poetry became more serious. He wrote prose on religious and moral subjects. After a long period of financial uncertainty and desperation, during which he was twice a member of Parliament (1601, 1614), Donne yielded to the wishes of King James I and took orders in 1615. Two years later his wife died.
The tone of his poetry, especially the Holy Sonnets, deepened after her death. After his ordination, Donne wrote more religious works, such as his Devotions (1624) and sermons. Several of his sermons were published during his lifetime. Donne was one of the most eloquent preachers of his day. He was made reader in divinity at Lincoln's Inn, a royal chaplain, and in 1621, dean of St. Paul's, a position he held until his death.
All of Donne's verse—his love sonnets and his religious and philosophical poems—is distinguished by a remarkable blend of passion and reason. His love poetry treats the breadth of the experience of loving, emphasizing, in such poems as "The Ecstasie," the root of spiritual love in physical love. The devotional poems and sermons reveal a profound concern with death, decay, damnation, and the possibility of the soul's transcendent union with God. Original, witty, erudite, and often obscure, Donne's style is characterized by a brilliant use of paradox, hyperbole, and imagery. His most famous poems include "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," "Go and catch a falling star," "Hymn to God the Father," and the sonnet to death ("Death be not proud"). Neglected for 200 years, Donne was rediscovered by 20th-century critics. His work has had a profound influence on a number of poets

Donne's "Song"

Sweetest love, I do not go,
For weariness of thee,
Nor in hope the world can show
A fitter love for me;
But since that I
Must die at last, 'tis best
To use myself in jest
Thus by feign'd deaths to die.

Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here today;
He hath no desire nor sense,
Nor half so short a way:
Then fear not me,
But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
More wings and spurs than he.

O how feeble is man's power,
That if good fortune fall,
Cannot add another hour,
Nor a lost hour recall!
But come bad chance,
And we join to'it our strength,
And we teach it art and length,
Itself o'er us to'advance.

When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,
But sigh'st my soul away;
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
My life's blood doth decay.
It cannot be
That thou lov'st me, as thou say'st,
If in thine my life thou waste,
That art the best of me.

Let not thy divining heart
Forethink me any ill;
Destiny may take thy part,
And may thy fears fulfil;
But think that we
Are but turn'd aside to sleep;
They who one another keep
Alive, ne'er parted be.

Discussion Questions for "Song"

Recall and Interpret
1. How does the speaker try to reassure his beloved in the first stanza? What does the speaker mean by "[t]hus by feigned deaths to die"?
2. In what ways is the speaker similar to and different from the sun? Why might the speaker have made this comparison?
3. Summarize what the speaker wants his beloved to do while he is away.

Evaluate and Connect
4. What is the speaker saying about the power people have over good and bad luck? Do you agree with his views on this subject? Explain.
5. How might temporary separations have been more difficult at the time Donne wrote than they are today?

Donne's "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
Whose soul is sense---cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Discussion Questions for "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"

Recall and Interpret
1. In the first two stanzas, to what does the speaker compare his separation from his lover?
What do the words "profanation" and "laity" imply about his feelings?
2. What difference does the speaker see between "our love" and that of "dull sublunary lovers"? Cite specific lines that support your answer.
3. In what ways are the lovers like "stiff twin compasses"? What does this comparison add to the speaker's argument?

Evaluate and Connect
4. Explain the simile (see page R14) in lines 21-24. In your opinion, is it effective? Why or why not?
5. What value do you think the speaker puts on passion? Why?

Donne's "Holy Sonnet 10"
"Death Be Not Proud"

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 rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Discussion Questions for "Holy Sonnet 10"

Recall and Interpret
1. What does the speaker tell Death in the first four lines? To what does the speaker compare Death in line 5? What can you infer about the speaker's attitude toward Death, based on the first eight lines?
2. How is Death "slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men"?
3. In your own words, explain the conclusion the speaker reaches in the last two lines.

Evaluate and Connect
4. To personify something is to give it human characteristics. Why might Donne have personified death in this poem?
5. How would you describe the tone of this poem? (See literary Terms Handbook, page R17.) Give reasons for your answer.

Donne's "Meditation 17"

PERCHANCE he for whom this Bell tolls, may be so ill, as that he knowes not it tolls for him; And perchance I may thinke my selfe so much better than I am, as that they who are about mee, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for mee, and I know not that. The Church is Catholike, universall, so are all her Actions; All that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concernes mee; or that child is thereby connected to that Head which is my Head too, and engraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a Man, that action concernes me: All mankinde is of one Author, and is one volume; when one Man dies, one Chapter is not torne out of the booke, but translated into a better language; and every Chapter must be so translated; God emploies several translators; some peeces are translated by age, some by sicknesse, some by warre, some by justice; but Gods hand is in every translation; and his hand shall binde up all our scattered leaves againe, for that Librarie where every booke shall lie open to one another: As therefore the Bell that rings to a Sermon, calls not upon the Preacher onely, but upon the Congregation to come; so this Bell calls us all: but how much more mee, who am brought so neere the doore by this sicknesse. There was a contention as farre as a suite, (in which both pietie and dignitie, religion, and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious Orders should ring to praiers first in the Morning; and it was that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignitie of this Belle that tolls for our evening prayer, wee would bee glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that application, that it might bee ours, as wel as his, whose indeed it is. The Bell doth toll for him that thinkes it doth; and though it intermit againe, yet from that minute, that that occasion wrought upon him, hee is united to God. Who casts not up his Eye to the Sunne when it rises? but who takes off his Eye from a Comet when that breakes out? Who bends not his eare to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a peece of himselfe out of this world? No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of Miserie or a borrowing of Miserie, as though we were not miserable enough of our selves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the Miserie of our Neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousnesse if wee did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured, and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into currant Monies, his treasure will not defray him as he travells. Tribulation is Treasure in the nature of it, but it is not currant money in the use of it, except wee get nearer and nearer our home, Heaven, by it. Another man may be sicke too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a Mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out, and applies that gold to mee: if by this consideration of anothers danger, I take mine owne into contemplation, and so secure my selfe, by making my recourse to my God, who is our onely securitie.

Discussion Questions for "Meditation 17"

1. Paraphrase Donne's words in the first paragraph.
2. What are some points of comparison Donne makes between humankind and "one volume" by "one author"?
3. According to Donne, in what ways is man like a "piece of the continent"?
4. What act would be "an excusable covetousness"? Why? 5. In the last paragraph, what does Donne think he will gain from "consideration of another's danger"?

6. In your opinion, what is Donne's message in the first paragraph?
7. What might Donne mean by saying that when a man dies he is "translated into a better language"?
8. What do you think is the main point Donne makes in the sixth paragraph? State this point in your own words.
9. Explain in your own words why Donne says "affliction is a treasure."
10. What do you think Donne would have liked his parishioners to do when they heard a bell toll? Support your answer with details from the selection.