October 9, 2014
“Death Be Not Proud” Response Paper
“Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne opens with the lines “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so” which means that Death must think he’s a really big deal, and the speaker is trying to tell him that even though other people might think he’s scary, he really isn’t. It goes on to say “For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.” Here, the author is telling Death that even though he thinks he has the power to kill people, he really doesn’t, and he certainly doesn’t have the power to kill the speaker. This refers to the fact that Christian religion promises people eternal life, so though they experience death on Earth, they can’t really be killed. The next two lines read “From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,” meaning that people like sleeping, and sleeping is sort of a ‘picture’ of death – a less real or intense version of it – so death must really be very pleasurable. Then “And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery,” saying that the good die young, and they follow Death, ready for him to give rest to their bones and deliver their souls. The poem then turns and says “Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,” the speaker suggesting that Death is not in control of death at all, but rather subject to things like destiny or luck. The next line says that death dwells with things like poison, war and sickness – so Death’s friends suck. “And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?” This means that people can use drugs or magic charms and sleep just as well or even better than they would with Death’s help, so why does he think he’s so important? The poem...
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