"Holy Sonnet X"

Explore John Donne's challenge to Death in "Holy Sonnet X" and discover why immortality renders it powerless. Learn the profound insights within.

"Holy Sonnet X"
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John Donne's poem "Death Be Not Proud," addresses and humbles Death personified. Donne roasts Death on several accounts. How can Death be powerful when it keeps company with a bunch of lowlifes: poison, war, and sickness. How can death be powerful when it's a slave to "fate, chance, kings, and desperate men." Death isn't even good at its job—poppies and charms are better for inducing rest.
Donne's ultimate humiliation of Death is that it is neither fearsome nor final, but illusory and transient. After "One short sleep past, we wake eternally, / And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die."
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.
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"Death, be not proud" is one of the nineteen sonnets from Donne's Holy Sonnets. It is considered one of his best works and is a centerpiece in the movie "Wit," about an English professor (played by Emma Thompson) who is diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Story From

John Donne Collection