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New John Donne statue unveiled in the shadow of St Paul's
15 June 2012
A statue of John Donne, one of England’s foremost poets and priests, and a Dean of St Paul's, has been unveiled in the newly completed garden to the south of the cathedral.
The bronze bust, by artist Nigel Boonham FRBS, points almost due west but shows Donne turning to face east towards his birthplace on Bread Street, just yards from the cathedral.
The directions of the compass were important to Donne in his metaphysical work: east is the Rising Sun, the Holy Land and Christ, while west is the place of decline and of death.
Underneath the bust is inscribed the Donne text:
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the West,
This day, when my Soul's form bends to the East
The Reverend Canon Mark Oakley, Treasurer of St Paul's, said: "Nigel Boonham's dignified bust of John Donne places the former Dean in the heart of the City that was so dear to him and very close to his places of birth, work and death. The memorial includes words from Donne’s Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward, considered by some to be one of the finest devotional poems of the Renaissance period, and these poignantly interrogate the directions we take in life and the frightening tendency of human beings to end up living lives which conflict with their soul’s understanding of what is true and good.
"To be challenged with these thoughts in an energetic, busy and too often anonymous City is timely. Our recent study event in St Paul’s on Donne attracted over 1,600 people to attend and clearly showed how people continue to be drawn to his resonance as both poet and preacher. To have the pre-Fire statue of Donne in the cathedral and now a contemporary one outside displays his importance to both church and world in his own times and in ours today."
John Donne (1572-1631)
Renowned both as an extraordinarily sensual poet and a great priest and preacher who coined the phrases ‘No man is an island’ and ‘For whom the bell tolls’, John Donne’s work remains as powerful today as when lived and worked at St Paul’s in the early years of the 17 century. Today, visitors to the cathedral are still reminded of his time at St Paul’s by his imposing statue - the only one to survive, unscathed, from the Great Fire of 1666.
John Donne (Wiki)
Meditation XVII – No man is an island / For whom the bell tolls