DEATH BE NOT PROUD - A bright example of metaphysical poetry by John Donne.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art 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.
In this sonnet, Poet is asking to death a question. In very first line of the poem we get to know that poet has used capital letter for the word “Death” which means death has been personified here as a living person. Therefore, it is now possible to talk with death. So he asks death why does she proud on her. Of course, we find in living word some call her mighty some name her powerful. In addition, it is true that she is inevitable. Nevertheless, poet does not take her as powerful and mighty. Moreover, he says to death if you think that, you have killed so many of us are not killed. Poet says Death that she cannot kill him. Here he refers her as poor and he is demeaning death in this line. Poet compares death to rest and sleep. He thinks death is nothing more than a sleep or a state of rest. He says to Death you are much more pleasure some for people than sleep. When you kill someone there remains only bones and soul reaches some another place as soon as someone dies. This idea of the poet resembles something like that have been described in Hindu philosophy in The Bhagwad Geeta that soul is immortal only body dies. No one living or nonliving can harm soul. Soul delivers immediately acquires a new body.
Poet again humiliates death. He says you are a slave to fate, kings, and chances. As in real life, we find that death comes through many kinds of excuses sometimes in the form of murder by goons; accident, sometimes and punishment by kings or judiciary, sometimes in face of disease or pandemic in some cases humans intentionally choose death as an excuse of escape from worldly matters by the means of suicide.
As we have seen in earlier lines poet compares death to sleep or rest. In a life, many persons consume narcotic drugs, wines, and herbs such as opium; Poet says that their effects are more powerful to sleep someone than death. Poet scorns Death why she feels pride on her.
In concluding couplet poet has said that whenever someone dies he does not die but dies the Death itself. Because soon after the moment we become a soul and soul is immortal. So here, poet says to Death that you die; we do not when you come to us.