Death be Not Proud

I noticed that after my post on Sadie and Maud (which I thought no one would read), I started to receive dozens of search engine referrals for that post. I assume they’re all from English students looking for a critical analysis or essay of some sort on that poem. Hey, honestly, before I even started to write that essay, I plugged away at a few websites myself towards the same end and I think I left the internet disappointed from finding nothing. So, for posterity, and particularly for other desperate English Majors out there looking for an essay to steer them clear on John Donne’s cryptic little poem Death Be Not Proud, I leave you the essay I wrote for class on this poem. Keep in mind, it’s another last minute hack I put together, but hey, it passed, whatever.

Analysis on John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud” (doc | html)

Death Be Not Proud
by John Donne
DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

32 thoughts on “Death be Not Proud”

  1. I would just like to say thank you for posting this essay – All I needed for my EnglishLit class was another essay to review and contrast the point of view on this poem, and I was so relieved when I finally found yours…It’s a really good piece of writing and definitely saved my butt!

  2. This is so incrdibly useful, every other thing I found just had a dang copy of the poem not an explanation of what it is about, which is useful as it is such a complex piece of writing

  3. this is crazy my dad has brain cancer and he told me to read this poem he never knew who wrote it or why the author wrote it. i dont think my dad has much longer to live but this poem and the whole breakdown of it was great thanks .

    1. written byJohn Dunn in the 1500s. He was an intellectual cleric who’s poem was famously used by John Gunther in 1948 to ennoble his son’s brave attempt to control his last 16 months struggling with his brain tumor. His father was a famous travel writer of the “Inside Russia,Asia,…etc” books. God bless; TonyB

  4. thanks,

    It helped a lot with helping me gain knowledge of the poem. A friend told me to look into using it for a english assignment.I’m not good at poetry so I like seeing other people’s point of view.

  5. Thank you very much sir for sharing your thoughts with us. I found your paper enlightening. It made me see various details I could not see.

  6. Derick, I must say you have made an irrefutable synopsis of this great work. I too have studied this very work for academic and personal reasons. I found your take on it to be close if not exact to my own. Thank you for this unexpected and most likely unacknowledged synopsis, It’s definitely worth the read.

  7. I liked the poem ‘Death Be Not Proud’ very much..I enjoy reading the poem even more after reading your essay.It was really a very good analysis.

  8. I think I love you! I’m working on an assignment for my composition II class in which the teacher gave us a variety of poems with questions she wanted specific answers to. I was having trouble finding the information I needed and your essay was so helpful. Thank you for sharing your amazing work.

  9. Thank you alot for your wonderful analysis and I just want to tell you that even Muslims have the same religion concept about Eternal Life and that is what makes me love the poem….

  10. thank you so much Derick, your essay helped me much doing the assignment, even I was looking for features of metaphysical poetry and figurative speech in the poem but it’s ok. Additionally, Noura is right, cause we Muslims have the same belief in eternal life after death and we believe that the angel of death will die at the final day or te day of judgment, so we have no conceptual contradiction regarding this point and the poem in general.
    Thanks again. … regards.

  11. thanks to you Ariyam for your wonderful piece of work. It has really helped my deeper understanding of the poem.Though i am looking for features of a metaphysical poem. God bless you.

  12. you are a lifesaver! thank you so much for posting this, i was struggeling then found it 🙂

  13. About Death, be not proud

    John Donne is an escapist…..his idea about death is subjective in nature….he is unable to digest the fact death is a universal truth…
    He personifies death as a human being and talks to it and challenges death it’s not a big for it to occur as its role is also played by war, disease and poison…
    Our Literature Sir taught it very nicely
    so we like this poem!!

  14. John Donne has been a leader of his time,and a model to the present world of writers.He combines the depth of his religion and his great poetic skills to present a great poetic works.

  15. Well written I could not have put it in better terms myself. Your essay was logically thought out and embedded with proof; which is what a professor looks for in an essay and I concur, opinions are nothing without good evidence to back it up.

  16. Not a bad analysis, but you have the Christian viewpoint, at least as expressed by Paul, incorrect. Paul did not believe in a disembodied soul living forever. He believed in the soul “sleeping” until the time of the general resurrection, at the return of the Lord. At that time each soul will be awaken and given a new body, a new physicality. That new body will live forever (“imperishable”). Paul viewed this new embodiment as a part of God’s larger renewal of all creation. A careful analysis of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 8 makes these points.

  17. thank you very much. The analysis you have made is very helpful for me preparing y english assignments. And the analysis you have made is very beautiful and worthful for me.

  18. Try reading to poem backwards(last line first etc) it makes just as much sense as the ‘proper’ way!!

  19. I think that this is a little helpful but not to those who have already read the majority of the book but thank you for trying don’t get me wrong it helps but not a lot

  20. I congratulate you for this formidable analysis of this poem! I think I finally, finally understand the thrust of every line! Thank you for that!

  21. I know this posting is a few years old. I’m not sure what drove me to look up the poem today. I appreciate your analysis, but I think you’ve got it partly wrong toward the end. Although grouped into the “Holy Sonnets,” I think Donne went out of his way to make the poem more universal than just a statement of Christian theology. There is no invocation of God or Jesus, not even the inclusion of the capitalized “Him.” It may well fall in line with Christian theology, but the poem, read from the beginning, is an argument. He is building the idea that death is inconsequential, or at least unworthy of defeating the reader. He sees the reader, and likely himself, as suffering from loss of someone close, and provides them comfort. In the argument, like a private conversation or even a motivational speech, the flippancy in the middle of the poem is intended to raise a smile in the darkness of bereavement. The sense of loss is not restricted to those of the Christian faith, and neither is the intended comfort or inspiration. The idea of waking “eternally” was available to non-believers even then, if only philosophically, and John Donne was aware of this. More importantly, Donne does not abandon his ideals by making the end universal…it may reflect his religious belief, but doesn’t mirror it.

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