Death, Be not Proud summary and theme

Death, Be not Proud written by John Donne Donne was an English poet who was born in 1572 and died in 1631.

The poet issues a challenge to death that it should not boast of its conquests of people nor take pride in their fear of it. Many depict death as “mighty and dreadful” because it kills everybody, but the poet denies its invincibility pitying “poor” death and declares that it can't kill him. 

Rather than being a fearful experience, death brings greater release and pleasure than rest and sleep. Moreover, death is actually a slave to the arbitrary dictates of fate and chance and to the whims of capricious monarchs and murderers. 

Death is associated only with the most destructive elements in life poison, war, and sickness. But opium and other drugs can put a person to sleep better than death does.

Therefore, death should not swell with pride. After death, people will wake up again as if from a short sleep into an eternity in which death shall be no more.

Death, Be not Proud theme

The central theme of the poem is the powerlessness of death. According to the poet, death is but a pathway to eternal life. The poet criticizes death for its illusionary pride. Once it serves its purpose of transporting its victims out of earthly life, it will be overcome by life, which lasts eternally.
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