María Fernanda Cristóbal
Ben Van Note
23 February 2012
Death Be Not Proud
John Donne’s poem, Death Be Not Proud, presents death as something living-- more specifically, a human. Given human characteristics like power and control; “some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not soe”; the author contradicts what in reality death is—an abstraction. Here Donne invokes the literary term of apostrophe where a non-human entity as one part of a natural conversation. Donne gives death a life from which he slowly picks apart at. Beginning with death as something mortal, mysterious and feared he exposes it to pain and nuisance leaving it as something weak and unimportant.
In the second quatrain, Donne states “From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,/Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,/ And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,/ Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie” (5-8) implying how death in its human form is like a state of sleep where pleasure is experienced. Here Donne describes death using a metaphor by relating it to a peaceful state of sleep or dream. This metaphor extends throughout the whole poem while also using personification to give death human characteristics—an obvious take on imagination. This gives death a dramatic twist of description because of Donne’s drastic new description of death as something good that one should look forward to. This idea, though, doesn’t last very long as the writer soon refers to death as a kind of slave; “Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men”. This metaphor with personification to slaves derives from the reality that whoever enters into a state of “death” has no choice. Thus, when one is “slave” to fate, chance or during times of war, death is obligated to offer an eternal peaceful state of sleep.
In the concluding couplet, Donne introduces the term of eternal life of salvation. He ends with the final line: “Death shalt die” (14) meaning death is...