March 27, 2004

Death and Donne (Pun Intended)

"I have never been afraid of death." How I wish that statement were completely true. I have feared death in my life, but I found a new hope, knowing that death does not have the last word. Death has been an enemy of mine. In "Death be not proud, though some have called thee," by John Donne, however, (Bartleby for text), death is discussed as a persona, not to be feared but pitied in its transient, almost powerless existence.

Donne's poem reveals that death only has power in the moment one draws their last breath, not in life: "nor yet canst thou kill me" (l. 4), nor after: "And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die" (l. 14). Death, as viewed by Donne, is not to be the enemy, a common foe among many peoples; it is, by his interpretation, as natural as sleeping (l. 11-13).

Though death is usually a morbid subject, I caught myself smiling while reading these lines. Parallelling my own Christian beliefs, this work is a great comfort. Instead of Death being portrayed as a scythe-wielding darksome figure with Poe's raven perched on its shoulder, Death is viewed as an almost mortal creation, with a definite end. Personifed as a slave, Death answers to "Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men" (l. 9); this representation brings an almighty persona, one of humanity's most feared entities, down to our level. When the speaker states, "Die not, poore death", (l. 4) the reader sympathizes with this creation, which has one powerful moment in its lifespan. Similar to a football player with only golden memories of his victories, death has a moment of victory and then disappears, just as a former athlete may recede into gray at a dead-end job.

Donne's characterization of Death as an almost-mortal being dispells fear and gives the reader a hope that when the "One short sleepe [is] past, wee wake eternally" (l. 13). I enjoyed this poem's content very much, but Donne should really get a spellchecker.

*I did not want to taint my analysis with other's views until I was finished. I will probably add more later, but as of right now...this is entirely my own work.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at March 27, 2004 9:26 PM
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