John Donne

Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud

This is the speaker reprimanding the personification of Death for being arrogant. Later in the poem the speaker gives reasons why Death hasnít the right to be Proud.

though some have called thee, mighty and dreadful,

Here the speaker is expressing how some people, note not all, fear death.

for thou art not so,

The speaker expresses his belief that death is not something to be feared, and that the personification of Death is actually powerless.

For, those, whom thou thinkíst thou dost overthrow, die not, poor death, nor canst thou kill me.

The speaker is making a claim that people do not die in the sense that they cease to exist. The speaker even makes the bold claim that Death can not even kill him.

From rest and sleep, which by thy pictures be, much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,

Rest and sleep here refer to death, with much pleasure resulting from death and the much more must flow referring to an after life. "Which by thy picture be" could mean the images or dreams of people who are asleep which in this analogy would refer to heaven.

And soonest our best men with thee do go, rest of their bones, and soulís delivery.

This states that as soon as the best men of the world die, they leave their bodies and are delivered to heaven.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, and dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

These two lines try to emphasize how powerless and impotent death is by showing that Death is not free but subject to the fates of all men.

And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well, and better than thy stroke;

This line tries to compare death with sleeping, stating that death is the equivalent of a drug induced or enchanted sleep which would be more affective than Deathís attempt of inducing an eternal slumber.

Why swellíst thou then?

After giving an explanation to Death on why Death shouldn't be proud, the narrator asks why then does Death swell with pride for his actions. The narrator has pointed out how foolish it was of Death to be so proud and arrogant when all Death's actions are both involuntary and meaningless.

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

Actual death is considered only a short slumber that people wake from and enter into a transcendental existence.

And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

And since people do not actually die, death is without a purpose. Once people emerge out of the natural world into another existence, all Deathís deeds are come undone and therefore Death itself is come undone. Death no longer exists or is thought to exist, which is the equivalent of Death dying.

This Poem is directed towards the personification of Death by an unknown speaker. The speaker is trying to convince Death of its powerlessness, explaining to it that people do not die, but instead they enter into another plane of existence. Since this is a holy sonnet, it is meant emphasize a love for God, which in this circumstance is shown through the speaker who does not fear death because of his confidence and love of God, which makes him believe that he will not die but will enter the kingdom of Heaven.

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April 2005