Death Be Not Proud

Topics: Poetry, Sonnet, Death Pages: 4 (1283 words) Published: March 2, 2009
J Singh English Coursework

John Donne and Tony Harrison both discuss death in their poems. They were written in different eras and both poems have different views on this subject. John Donne had a rather privileged upbringing as he was born into a prosperous family and studied law at Oxbridge. Donne, however, was also unfortunate as he lost is father very early in his life and this could have affected his views on death. Tony Harrison on the other hand was born into a proud working class family in Leeds. Harrison’s poem is completely opposite to Donne’s as it tells the reader about his personal life and the unfortunate passing of his Mother.

“Death be not Proud” was written three hundred and fifty years ago and written in sonnet form, a traditional form of writing at that time. In “Death be not Proud”, Donne personifies death, calling death “thee” and “thou”, this makes “death” seem less influential and demonstrates that Donne is not scared of death. Indeed, he challenges and threatens it by saying, in line four, “Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me”. Donne compares death, a word which normally carries negative connotations, to sleep which is a pleasant experience. By saying this, Donne suggests consequently that death is an enjoyable experience. In lines five to six, it states “From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow.” Here, Donne mocks death as even in the title, “death be not proud”, Donne is saying that death should not be so full of itself and calls death a “slave” who lives with all sorts of atrocious things. He refers to death as “poison, war and sickness”. Donne is not afraid to say the word “death” or “die” and this is shown by the fact that he repeats the word “death” several times to show he is not afraid of it. By contrast, in conversation, people often evade the word death, preferring to use phrases such as “passed away” because even mentioning the word death may scare...
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