Death Be Not Proud Summary
“Death Be Not Proud” presents an argument against the facility of death. Addressing Death as an individual, the speaker warns Death against pride in his power. Such power is simply an illusion, and therefore the end Death thinks it brings to men and ladies is a rest from world-weariness for its alleged “victims.” The poet criticizes Death as a slave to other forces: fate, chance, kings, and desperate men. Death isn’t on top of things, for a spread of other powers exercises their volition in taking lives. Even within the rest, it brings, Death is inferior to drugs. Finally, the speaker predicts the top of Death itself, stating “Death, thou shalt die.”
Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 10” follows the Elizabethan/Shakespearean sonnet form therein it’s made from three quatrains and a concluding couplet. However, Donne has chosen the Italian/Petrarchan sonnet rhyme scheme of abba for the primary two quatrains, grouping them into an octet typical of the Petrarchan form. He switches rhyme scheme within the third quatrain to add, then the couplet rhymes ee as was common. Death Be Not Proud read more…
The first quatrain focuses on the topic and audience of this poem: death. By addressing Death, Donne makes it/him into a personality through personification. The poet warns death to avoid pride (line 1) and reconsider its/his position as a “Mighty and dreadful” force (line 2). He concludes the introductory argument of the primary quatrain by declaring to death that those it claims to kill “Die not” (line 4), and neither can the poet himself be stricken during this way.
The second quatrain, which is closely linked to the primary through the abba rhyme scheme, turns the criticism of Death as but fearful into praise for Death’s good qualities. From Death comes “Much pleasure” (line 5) since those good souls whom Death releases from earthly suffering experience “Rest of their bones” (line 6). Donne then returns to criticizing Death for thinking too highly of itself: Death is not any sovereign, but a “slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men” (line 9); this last demonstrates that there’s no hierarchy during which Death is near the highest. Although a desperate man can choose Death as a shake earthly suffering, even the remainder which Death offers are often achieved better by “poppy, or charms” (line 11), so even there Death has no superiority.
The final couplet caps the argument against Death. Not only is Death the servant of other powers and essentially impotent to kill anyone, but also Death is itself destined to die when, as within the Christian tradition, the dead are resurrected to their eternal reward. Here Donne echoes the sentiment of Paul in First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians 15:26, where Paul writes that “the final enemy to be destroyed is death.” Donne taps into his Christian background to means that Death has no power and at some point will cease to exist.
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