Everybody knows the line “no man is an island”, but nobody knows that when John Donne wrote Devotions upon Emergent Occasions in 1624, he actually warned of Brexit.
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 manner 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.
I am not a big fan of John Donne, I should add. When I was in prison in Iran, I was given one book in English: John Donne’s Selected Poems. It was a nice gesture by one of the interrogators, but I am simply not a big fan of medieval poetry. Lying on the concrete floor, fighting insects and fear, listening to the screams in neighboring cells, still rooting for a revolution from whose ranks I had been plucked, I was not in the mood for romantic poetry.
I was in prison for one week, but I only got to page 5 or 6. And I would have had plenty of time, believe me. The light was on for 24 hours a day, too, which is quite a nice service for readers. But Evin prison should get some tomes of John Steinbeck, Alexandre Dumas or Thomas Mann, the kind of books one only finds time to read on internet-free islands, aircraft carriers and during incarceration.