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Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness
  1. John Birtwhistle
  1. Correspondence to John Birtwhistle, English and Related Literature, University of York, Heslington YO10 5DD, UK; birtwhistle{at}

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By John Donne (1572–1631)

Comment by John Birtwhistle

Since I am coming to that holy room

Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,

I shall be made thy music, as I come

I tune the instrument here at the door

And what I must do then, think here before.

John Donne’s sonnet ‘Death be not proud’ is a favourite reading at our funerals; but his ‘Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness’ is one of the great poems in the language. According to his friend Izaac Walton it was written on Donne’s deathbed,1 though it more probably relates to his illness of 1623. Either way, he thought he was at death’s door. The stanza quoted …

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  • Correction notice This paper has been amended since it was published Online First. Owing to a scripting error, some of the publisher names in the references were replaced with ‘BMJ Publishing Group’. This only affected the full text version, not the PDF. We have since corrected these errors and the correct publishers have been inserted into the references.