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John Donne and Death
May Nguyen…read more

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Donne and many other poets at the
· Were fascinated by the subject of death, they
were charmed by its mysterious allure and
convinced of the afterlife (as implemented by
Christian ideology)
· But Donne seemed to have found it difficult to
settle on one set view on `death'
· He'd go from addressing it directly, indirectly,
significant and fearful or deeming it
insignificant.…read more

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Death and Religion
· In many of his poems death and religion go hand in hand.
· To die was to become a step closer to God and Judgement
· He points out that at the end of the day, when you die you
are leaving others and you have also been left by others
before them. Physically you die alone but spiritually you
have your faith and God by your side.
· Donne doesn't seem to conventionally fear death, as his
belief in the afterlife muted these fears but he does change
his views to death a lot.
· In Holy Sonnet 10, he looks at the lack of power in death
but in Holy Sonnet 17, he seems to be on another search to
find out what he feels about death.…read more

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Holy Sonnet 10
Also known as `Death be not proud' is full of
Donne talks about the power of death and then
denies it in the next few lines. He then goes on
to talk about death as a middle stage, something
we all have to go through to meet our creator.
God.…read more

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Holy Sonnet 10
The speaker points out how death is feared by many but is in reality not `mighty
and dreadful'. Death is just like sleep, a physical pleasure. (this can cause us to Death, be not proud, though some
question why a religious man would refer to death as pleasurable) have called thee
In the context of the eta, the word `yet' can be read in two ways, `not yet can you Mighty and dreadful, for thou art
kill me' Donne acknowledges death is inevitable or `you can't even kill me' Donne not so ;
makes fun of death. Also it links with immortality, the soul is known to be immortal For those, whom thou think'st thou
and can never be killed. dost overthrow,
This line is kind of like Billy Joel's `only the good die young'. He is saying that the Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst
best and courageous people know that death is painless, pleasurable and thou kill me.
rewarding so they die first. They know the secrets the rest of us don't know, which From rest and sleep, which but thy
is why we still live unable to get closer to judgement day. picture[s] be,
We are all slaves (so under control of) fate, kings, men. Besides fate, the other Much pleasure, then from thee
`masters' are men. This can also hint at the patriarchal society Donne is living in. much more must flow,
Men and Kings held all the power, Kings were known to be God's chosen leader of And soonest our best men with
the nations. Kings have the power to end or save another's life just as God does, it thee do go,
is not death itself that has the power to take or give life. It has to follow orders. Rest of their bones, and soul's
The speaker is mocking death here, accusing him of hanging out with lowlifes such delivery.
as drugs (poison) war (greed) and sickness. Thou'rt slave to Fate, chance, kings,
He likens death to opium, a drug that was very popular in the 17th century and and desperate men,
didn't take a lot of nerve to try it even though it brought death closer. He's trying And dost with poison, war, and
to say that to confront death you don't need much courage. sickness dwell,
Could the speaker possibly be taking a brave and courageous stance against death
And poppy, or charms can make us
to mask their own fear of the afterlife? They are also very sure of themselves,
sleep as well,
claiming that death is simply like a short nap before they wake up to eternal
And better than thy stroke ; why
freedom. They are also saying that they have been a very good person/Christian so
swell'st thou then ?
they will definitely wake up to heaven and not hell.
One short sleep past, we wake
Ironically, the speaker claims that death can be destroyed but only by death itself. And Death shall be no more
Once a person has died and gone onto the afterlife, death itself has died. It is no ; Death, thou shalt die.
longer a part of their existence. It can be said that there is a sense of cockiness in
the speakers statement. They are mocking death's power, saying that death will die
anyways even if it kills them. So no one wins in the end but them because they will
be waking eternally.…read more

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Holy Sonnet 17
Also known as `Since she whom I loved' This poem was
majorly influenced by Donne's wife Anne's death in 1617.
Once again he presents his belief of death as a mere
transitory stage between the earthly and eternal life, and
appears to be resigned to his fate.
He states that her death has been beneficial, since it has
allowed her to join God in the afterlife whilst freeing him
from earthly concerns.
Therefore, Donne profits from her death since he is able
to concentrate his thoughts and love on God. By
ascending to the skies, Anne ceases to be competition
against the higher being for Donne's affection.…read more

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