Death Be Not Proud
By John Donne
What is the poets personal view on death and what ideas does he bring across to support it?
The poem suggests that the poet has gained personal victory over death, disregarding its power and declaring his own ability to defy it. If you look closer, you would see that death has been written in small letters indicating that death is trifle. That it has no reputation or value. He mocks a very frightening subject implying that, the most severe power that ends the life of every man and woman cannot harm him because of his Christian belief in the afterlife.
In the first quatrain John Donne personifies death. He addresses death as an equal or inferior. By doing so, he is able to confront death and attach characteristics that make it easier for readers to grasp the abstract concept of death. He says that death is not as mighty and dreadful as people have perceived it to be. Giving us hope and motivation to overcome it, just as he did. Next the poet uses sarcasm to put forward that the people death thought he had “taken” are not actually dead, but in a happier place. By this the poet is able to rob death of its “mighty and dreadful” power.
The next quatrain the poet uses a simile that suggests that sleep and rest are like death. Sleep and rest gives much pleasure so surely death will provide with so much more. He talks about our best men that with death soon go. Their bones rest and their souls simply are delivered; death cannot influence them in any way.
In the 3rd quatrain John Donne does the unthinkable and disempowers Death. He personifies Chance and Fate. By doing so he gives Fate and Chance direct power over death. He implies that death is not the boss but merely a slave to Fate and Chance and that a servant to kings, who order men to be executioned, and desperate men, such as murderers and suicidal men. The poet now provokes death by saying that drugs and charms can produce a satisfying rest too, so why does death think he is so powerful and proud? Death has now lost all power and respect and has become inferior to the poet.
The final couplet indicates that death is nothing more than a short sleep, a momentary phase at which everybody passes to go to the eternal life. Also death and eternal life are separated by a comma not a full stop or colon, making it an even simpler path. And once we reach the eternal life death will be no more and death will die.
The poem has been written in such a way that the poet has challenged societies view on death. Death is basically a phenomenon which we fear. In this sonnet John Donne acts as a brave soldier that combats this common thought. My view of this poem is that when he wrote this sonnet he believed that at the end of his physical life, he will begin an eternal life with God in heaven. I belief we should accept death and understand that if we live a purpose driven and fulfilling life, we will have no reason to fear death. In this world people misjudge death to be awful and terrifying only because they do not understand it.
As a whole this poem gives hope to those who have been presently affected by death, either having lost someone very close or being of age ready to transition towards the afterlife. Death is unknown and because of its mysteriousness it has become the cause of much fear. I feel that this poem has given us the courage to face death in such a way where we could all live our lives to the full potential and accomplishment without fear of the unknown.