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In 1623 during a dangerous illness, John Donne, then Dean of St. Paul's and already famous for his poems and sermons, wrote the passionate musings on body and soul which were published as Devotions. They are cast in three forms; Meditations on the human condition, which reflect each stage of his sickness; Expostulations addressed to God in a spirit of inquiry; and Prayers.
"A sacred picture of spiritual ecstasies," Donne's biographer Izaak Walton called them, "writ on his sick-bed, herein imitating the holy Patriarchs, who were wont to build their altars in that place where they had received their blessings."
"This book is the best introduction to Donne's religious prose and religious temper . . . the record of a journey through the valley of the shadow. The theme brings out all Donne's special characteristics, his preoccupation with sin and death, his acuteness of psychological analysis, his keen awareness of the tension between his soul and the world, the originality of his wit, the troubled and sometimes lurid power of his imagination."