Sympathy for Death? It Didn't Last Long.

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"Die not, poor Death...And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die" (Donne).

The first part of the quote appeared in the first part of the sonnet, which seemed to start out sympathetic to death.  It seemed as though the narrator was telling death that it is not as dreadful as people say.  The narrator states, "Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow."   He or she seems to be telling death that it brings pleasure by peace and sleep.  I also thought that "Die not, poor Death" seemed contradicting, wouldn't Death already be dead since it is death?  The sonnet took a turn and the tone became more malicious.  I thought the narrator was telling Death he would die in a conquering voice.  How does he go from telling Death not to die, to commanding Death that it will?


Erica Gearhart said:

I was confused about this part at first too. However, if you look closely where the commas are, I think Donne might be saying that the people who Death thinks he kills are the ones who do not actually die. He goes on to say that Death can't kill him either. I think this whole poem is a testament to Donne's belief in life after death.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

I decided to take on this confusing line at the end where Donne says "Death, thou shalt die." I have to say, I disagree with Erica's explanation of the comma placement. The comma is placed as though someone is addressing death. For example:

Death, thou shalt die.
Tommy, don't run.
You, stop right there!

However, Donne is not being malicious with this statement. He is instead telling death that he is no longer scary. Donne has found piece with death, so death in its worldy sense (as being scary and "dreadful") has died and is now placed with a new meaning of death (eternity and "much pleasure").

If this brief explanation confused you a bit, I wrote a longer explanation on my blog with references to the actual poem. Check it out if you wish:

Stephanie Wytovich said:

I think that he is referring to death as an idea, a feeling. When he says "Die not, poor death," I think he is trying to vanquish the sterotypes of death. He is telling us to kill the idea of it being scary, and to accept that it is the key to immortality.

Tiffany Gilbert said:

Kaitlin, I like how you broke down the different parts of emotion and feeling within the poem. I took it into the perspective of Death being a person and in our world, a bully and enemy, who seems more powerful, but in the end is just as strong as me and you.

Angela Palumbo said:

I, too, thought that Donne portrayed Death as a person, like the Grim Reaper. It almost seems that the speaker was lulling Death into a false sense of security. He tells Death that he feels bad for him but in the end, he changes and tells him that he too will die and it won't just be an Earthly death like people, it will be an eternal death.

Juliana Cox said:

I related my blog entry to the idea that maybe Shakespeare was asking what is the need for death. I interpreted the last few lines of the sonnet as Shakepspeare telling death that people have the power to take their own lives so wouldn't that take away the job of death? By taking your own life your are cheating death if you think of death as someone coming to take you away. I continue on this topic on my blog. You can check it out and comment if you want!

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