Thursday, April 5, 2007

John Donne, "Death Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are 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.

The speaker in this poem is a man standing up to death. He is speaking out to announce that he is not afraid of death, and death cannot kill him.
My original thought of this poem was grim, about someone dying in the poem. However, after reading it a few times and picking apart each line, I now see that the poem is about Death's temporary "victory" upon humans. The poem goes on to say that people view Death as a strong and swift force, but the speaker disagrees. He sees Death as a weak being that cannot harm him. Death eventually catches up to everyone, but in the end, we become eternal whether it be in thought or memory;once this is so, Death can no longer affect us, and Death itself becomes lifeless, useless, and no more. Line 2 shows the speaker standing against Death's might. "For thou art not so" means "you are not", saying Death you are here, but you are not strong, nor are you dreadful. Lines 7-12 state how we all obey fate. All of our lives at one time come to an end, and that is our destiny. Lines 13-14 are the more outspoken words against Death, ranting that when we do die, we wake to become eternal, thus when we cannot die, Death dies itself.


Mr. Malley said...

Mike...good reading. I like the thought of people becoming eternal through memory.

When you say that lines 13-14 are outspoken, you correct, but you put it a bit awkwardly. One way to verbalize what Donne does in these lines is to say that he uses an imperative sentence. You'd have to reach back to 4th or 5th grade for that one, but it is a sentence type.

Lastly, yesterday you asked me about apostrophe. This is another great example of apostrophe, as Donne is talking to Death as if it were a human (which also blends into personification).

Good try to focus on the devices a smidge more.

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