John Donne (1572–1631)
Death Be Not Proud (Holy Sonnet X)
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
John Donne (1572-1631) was born into a prominent Catholic family but converted to the Church of England in his twenties. At the age of eleven he entered Oxford University for a period of three years, and then Cambridge, but he never took a degree. In 1615 he became an Anglican priest, and in 1621 the dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Donne’s poetry, prose and sermons were famous for their eloquence, subtlety, psychological analysis and brilliance, especially as they described the complex paradoxes of the human condition.
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