Death, Be Not Proud -John Donne

In my AICE English course last year, our teacher, Mr. Walpole, had us memorize a poem. When he first gave us the assignment, it was….daunting. We had to memorize 14 lines worth of 17th century metaphysical poetry and recite it to the class—WHAT?! Yup, that was my initial reaction. However, after beating up my brain to memorize this poem it started coming together line by line, piece by piece. And before I knew it, I was utterly mesmerized by the beauty of it. The poem is about mortality and in a sense John Donne makes fun of death and belittles it. How often do you see that? Our lives as humans are dictated by the notion of death. It rules us.

But in this poem, John Donne rules it.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
 
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