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Death Be Not Proud by John Donne

The major theme in John Donne’s Death Be Not Proud poem is death. Throughout the poem the poet speaks about death. At the start, he says that death should not be proud although many might praise it for the things it might have done to others. The narrator of the poem tells death that even though it kills the kings and the desperate men; to him it has no victory. The narrator even tells death that he is not mighty since ‘poppie and charmes’ make people sleep (Academy of American Poets). Further, people sleep daily which is a form of death.

Afterwards, the narrator will one day sleep and wake up to eternity and there will be no fear of death for death will also die. The narrator shows that death has no power over him since it comes to those who surrender to it. He thus concludes that death is a slave to fate and that it should dwell with those who adore it and only after they die. The narrator depicts death as a bully who is powerless concerning fulfilling his threats. The literal setting of the poem is in the Bible. This concept is seen when the narrator says, “One short sleepe, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more; death, thou shall die” (Academy of American Poets).

This is because the narrator alludes to Bible teachings which state that death has no victory. For example, in the Bible book of First Corinthians chapter fourteen verse 55, death is tauntingly asked ‘where is your sting? Grave where is your victory? (Biblos. com). This notion is indicated in the poem whereby the narrator says, “And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die” (Academy of American Poets). Consequently, the narrator points out that sleep which is a form of death is followed by awakening, thus indicating that a great awakening is coming and that death shall be no more.

The physical death is thus compared with sleep whereby those who die in Christ shall rise again and they shall die no more as illustrated in the Bible. The setting is symbolic of the events surrounding the journey to heaven when there shall be no death. This is evident when the narrator says that death will surely die. Moreover, he seems to mock death throughout the entire poem whereby he tells death that it should not be proud although others call it mighty and dreadful when it is not. This indicates the narrator’s faith in God and that he will surely rise again in the resurrection as taught by the Holy Bible.

This statement proves that the narrator is not speaking about the natural person but the spiritual. It is thus symbolic of the future life in Christ. The mood of the poem is jovial. This is evident because the narrator is always laughing at death for being a victim of fate who should not be proud even though others call him mighty and dreadful. He states that death thinks that it can overthrow but only those who are fearful of it. The narrator tells death that eventually it will surely die. The title is significant to the content in the poem because the poem speaks about the incapability of death.

The poet depicts death an entity that eventually dies. Further, all those whom death claims to have conquered are those who are subject to its fear. The narrator also shows how death is unable to kill him. Death should thus not be proud of its conquest to others for it is subject to the narrator. The major literacy devices and figures of speech used include personification; this is evident when the narrator tells death that he should not be proud where pride is an attribute of mankind. He even tells death that he cannot kill him. Further, the narrator tells death that those whom it kills are those who are anxious about him.

Conversely, use of hyperbole is evident. The narrator exaggerates issues when he tells death that it will surely die. In addition, the narrator tells death that he cannot kill the narrator and that it is a slave of fate. Through the poem, the poet uses rhyming words. This is evident in the first line which rhymes with the fourth and fifth, that is, thee, mee and bee respectively. Moreover, the third and sixth lines have rhyming words, that is, throw and flow. The tenth and eleventh lines also have rhyming words; dwell and well. Such rhyming words support the poem’s overall meaning since they stress the major theme in the poem.

This is evident whereby the poet stresses the incapability of death in the first, fourth, and fifth lines in the poem. The identity of the narrator is clear in the poem. This is because the narrator is depicted as a strong Christian who follows the teachings of the Bible that declare that at resurrection, there will be no more death. Those who had died in Christ will never see death for death will be taken to the lake of fire. This is evident when the narrator states that death is like a short sleep after which one wakes to eternity. There will thus be no more death for death will have died.

The narrator seems to have a negative attitude about the subject matter of the poem. This is evident when he warns death of being proud for death cannot kill him. The narrator despises death, stating that death is a victim of fate and it only claims those who are desperate of him

Reference Academy of American Poets. Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10). Retrieved 21 August 2010, from http://www. poets. org/viewmedia. php/prmMID/15836 Biblos. com. 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, O death, is Your Victory? Where, O Death Is Your Sting? http://bible. cc/1_corinthians/15-55. htm

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