Death Be Not Proud Poem

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DEATH BE NOT PROUD Divine Meditation 10 Summary The speaker tells Death that it should not feel proud, for though some have called it “mighty and dreadful,” it is not. Those whom Death thinks it kills do not truly die, nor, the speaker says, “can’st thou kill me.” Rest and sleep are like little copies of Death, and they are pleasurable; thus, the speaker reasons, Death itself must be even more so—indeed, it is the best men who go soonest to Death, to rest their bones and enjoy the delivery of their souls. Death, the speaker claims, is a slave to “fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,” and is forced to dwell with war, poison, and sickness. The speaker says that poppies and magic charms can make men sleep as well as, or better than, Death’s stroke, so why should Death swell with pride? Death is merely a short sleep, after which the dead awake into eternal life, where Death shall no longer exist: Death itself will die. Form This simple sonnet follows an ABBAABBACDCDEE rhyme scheme and is written in a loose iambic pentameter. In its structural division of its subject, it is a Petrarchan sonnet rather than a Shakespearean one, with an octet establishing the poem’s tension, and the subsequent sestet resolving it. Commentary This rather uncomplicated poem is probably Donne’s most famous and most anthologized; “Death be not proud” seems to be, for some reason, the most famous phrase in Donne. The sonnet takes the oblique reasoning and topsy-turvy symbolism of Donne’s metaphysical love poems and applies them to a religious theme, treating the personified figure of Death as someone not worthy of awe or terror but of contempt. Donne charts a line of reasoning that explores a different idea in each quatrain. First, Death is not powerful or mighty because he does not kill those he thinks he kills; second, the experience of being dead must be more pleasurable than rest

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