John Donnes’ Poetry Literature Study Essay


John Donne is a poet whose work topped in the early part of the twentieth century. He is famous for exploiting the style of verse known as metaphysical poetry. Metaphysical poetry entails complex figures of speech applied to elaborate and surprising metaphorical conceits, unusual verse forms and learned themes discussed according to eccentric and unexpected chains of reasoning. Donne’s poetry exhibits each of the characteristics of a metaphysical poem (Marvell and Herbert 15). Donne encourages us to acknowledge and accept death. We must accept fate rather than resigning to it. There are phenomena that we cannot find their answers in science. Therefore, we must look for answers in the spiritual world.

Allusion runs in the entire poem. John Donnes’ poem, Death Be Not Proud, from the Biblical point of view, he says that “death is no different from sleep only this time around we get to sleep a bit longer…but wait…we wake eternally and death would be no more” (Donne 2001). He portrays death as a loser and convinces human not to be afraid of it. However, his conviction to make human look at death different is by writing that death is not only scary but also a joyful experience.

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The poet compares death to a slave which can be manipulated. He says some flowers and even magic can also kill better than death. “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more. Death, thou shall die” (Donne 2001). As John Donne renders death a loser, he writes this from the biblical point of view. In the Bible, Christians get assurance that after death, a prolonged sleep, they will live forever with no more death. Therefore, victory will triumph over death and human beings will live forever. To John Donne, death is something “irrelevant” and human beings need not fear it.

Donne also uses personification in his poem. In the poem Death Be Not Proud, death assumes the role of a tyrant without real power. The speaker says that some call it mighty and dreadful though it is not so. The speaker also addresses death as a slave serving fate, chance, kings and desperate men. They use death not death using them.

The poet employs personification to diminish death’s formidability. The speaker mocks death by saying “Die not poor death” and “nor yet canst thou kill me”. “And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die”. John Donne shows victory over death by giving death human attributes and declaring “thou shalt die” (Donne 2001). This part paints death as a powerful force that scares human beings. He portrays people living in fear of death. According to Donne, death has killed many including kings, and all those it kills surrender to it physically. The poet compares death to a slave that human beings use to end their troubles.

In the poem, death comes out as a tyrant without real power. The poem crashes death through weakening and making it seem irrelevant. To the poet, death is a brief rest, and when we wake up we shall live eternally and death will die. Donne believes death will always lose the game. Sleep gives us pleasure. Therefore, the poet portrays death as something we can easily associate with to give us the comfort and pleasure. This makes human beings be at ease with death. According to Donne, death experience does not last, as he puts it that we will wake up again and live forever. He also shows how human beings can control death by using it instead of death using human beings.


Death Be Not Proud by John Donne, is a sonnet that argues against the formidability of death. The poem gives hope of eternal life to Christians, and provides secular arguments where death works for the desperate, fate, chance and for the powerful. Donne encourages us to acknowledge and accept death. We must accept fate rather than resigning to it. There are phenomena that we cannot find their answers in science. Therefore, we must look for answers in the spiritual world.

Works Cited

Donne, John. Death Be Not Proud. Paris: Poem Hunter, 2001. Print.

Marvell, Andrew and Herbert, George. Metaphysical Poetry: An Anthology. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002. Print.

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