In The Washington Post, Alexandra Petri wrote a satirical opinion piece criticizing anti-abortion laws in the United States by parodically lamenting the routine death of spermatazoa.

I was struck by this passage, and thought maybe it was an allusion or a channeling of some other writer's literary style.

What passing bells for those who perish, uncoupled? Who patters out their hasty orisons? What of those who move into the great beyond as islands, entire of themselves... Naturally, we must provide for them just as we have for their more fortunate brethren — indeed, we ought to do more for them, surely!

At first glance, this reminded me of an anachronistic writing style maybe slightly reminiscent of Melville.

The word "orison" is listed in the OED as archaic or obsolete, which further leads me to wonder if this writer is channeling an anachronistic writing style or invoking a particular author.

Is there any evidence or comparable literary passages that could explain whether this is a direct or oblique allusion?

  • It vaguely reminds me of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard . – Hot Licks Dec 6 '19 at 0:52
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    Though Anthem for Doomed Youth is a much closer match, including "orisons". – Hot Licks Dec 6 '19 at 0:54
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    @HotLicks That's exactly it. The first words match and the meter. – Mitch Dec 6 '19 at 1:03
  • Google can do wonderful things ... if you quote your search strings. – Hot Licks Dec 6 '19 at 1:12
  • @Mitch Yes, it's Owen's. Set to Britten, perhaps. In my own head, at least. – tchrist Dec 6 '19 at 1:12

It suggests “For whom the Bell Tolls” by John Donne.

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    Can you give any indication why? – Mitch Dec 10 '19 at 14:29
  • I suggest Donne : – HGDunlap Dec 11 '19 at 16:16
  • EmThe passage suggests Donne’s great “No man is an island entire of itself – HGDunlap Dec 11 '19 at 16:17
  • There's a whole bunch of other stuff in there from other authors. – Mitch Dec 11 '19 at 17:28
  • Yes, but also the passage contains both “islands” and “bells.”” – HGDunlap Dec 11 '19 at 17:32

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