Oh The Irony

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"One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die" (Donne 13-14).
 
My one question that I have about these two final lines is why is death not capitalized in the first half of line 14, but then capitalized in the second half?  Perhaps the first half is referring to the concept of death whereas the second half is referring to Death personified. 
 
Regardless, this poem indicates that an afterlife exists.  It is named as a Holy Sonnet, so it has some relevance to religion.  Depending on your beliefs, this "one short sleep past" can represent many things, but I believe that it represents that short period of time after a person dies when they reflect on their life (ex: the carriage ride in Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I could not stop for Death"). 
 
At this point, Death thinks he has won; he thinks that he is victorious and has succeeded in his goal of capturing yet another human life.  But he is wrong, because when he looks down at the grave, he sees only a body; the soul has gone on to another life.  Death would be quite upset at this failure and (metaphorically speaking) he would die.   
 
Oops.  I guess Death didn't know about karma.
 
If you didn't like my take on it, read somebody else's.

2 Comments

Erica Gearhart said:

It is really interesting that the capitalization of death varies in that line. I did not notice that until you pointed it out.

Greta Carroll said:

Lauren, that is a really good point, I did not notice the change from lowercase to capital letter in those lines. And that emphasis on death’s personification makes me focus more on it. It gives the poem another meaning. As you point out, it gives the idea of Death’s disappointment over the speaker’s lack of sadness when he/she dies. And by not being upset, he/she has victory over it.

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