Death be not proud (Holy Sonnet X)

February 23, 2006 at 10:13 pm 8 comments

John Donne


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.

See commentary on Minstrels.


Entry filed under: English, John Donne.

Ein Yahav Facing It

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chevaneese Radinal  |  September 22, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    This is my fist time reading a sonnet and it sounds alright. For a minute i didn’t know what he was referring to but then i relized he was talking about “Death” it self. Not bad!

  • 2. Essie  |  December 9, 2006 at 2:46 am

    This poem is magnificent! Especially the last line when he tells death that he shall die! I love it. I love the anger, the passion, the condescension of death’s power over man, in light of the resurrectiion.

  • 3. Ella  |  April 6, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    He’s not telling death to die. He’s talking about how death is just a moment in time and that after that we wake eternally in heaven. He is basically speaking to death and telling it that it dies with the person (as you can only die once).

  • 4. haley petroff  |  January 10, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    this poem is really amazing because it is telling us that we need not fear death because if we are true to our god then once we die we will be in heaven living our ever lasting life

  • 5. Kay  |  March 3, 2008 at 7:32 am

    This version of the poem is sadly lacking. In the Gardiners edition, of which is thought to be the greatest translation, there is not a semi-colon in the last sentence, there is a comma. While this seems minutae, the comma brings another meaning into the poem. “Death be not proud” is not a brassy challenge to death–it is a consolation. There should not be exclamation points and semi-colons; death is a mere comma, a mere breath away from our lives. This poem, unlike many of his other sonnets, consols us rather than shows us his salvation anxiety. It portrays death not as a butcher, but as a bringer of rest.

    • 6. Drew  |  December 31, 2010 at 6:31 pm

      Somebody has read Wit.

  • 7. Jackson  |  August 21, 2008 at 4:21 am

    There is such peace and comfort within this sonet. “Death be not proud” do not boast, do not exclaim, gently accept, generously welcome. The earliest translations place a coma after “And death shall be no more”, not a full stop but a pause, a continuation, of life flowing into death, a place we will all go and eventually find peace.

  • 8. jojobo  |  September 24, 2008 at 2:31 am

    This is such a playful look at death. It’s all arrogance, maybe reality. It is flirting with the idea of death. What is death? How often do we consider? Death comes to all.. It is wise to get many perspectives on the facts as it approaches. We don’t get to choose the time, place or circumstances of our death. But, as with every event, our point of view colors the experience. I like this talking to Death. I like Mr. Donne’s “eyes wide open” approach as he tries to take in the big picture. And at last, this too shall pass. . .


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