John Donne | Death Be Not Proud

Death Be Not Proud” is a poem by English metaphysical poet John Donne, written around 1610 and first published posthumously in 1633. It is the tenth sonnet of Donne’s posthumously published Holy Sonnets.

The poem is addressed to Death, telling him not to be proud, because death is not to be feared.

The poem explains because sleep is a type of death, and that it is pleasurable, then death must be even more so; that death is a slave to fate, chance (accidental death), kings (who have the power of life and death, such as the ability to levy war and command executions), and men. The theme of the poem is generally describing about mortality.

During this piece of work, John Donne had suffered a major illness during his eighth year as an Anglican minister that had brought him close to the grasp of death. The illness may be have been typhoid fever but in recent years it has been shown that he may have had a relapsing fever in combination with other illness.

Text

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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