Death Be Not Proud

Death has no terror for John Done; bring a devout and Christian he believes in final resurrection from the state of death. Death consequently is no more than a sleep, a long sleep, no doubt, but a sleep from which there is always a waking. Moreover, while it lasts, it is a restful sleep. The poem is written in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet. It is the tenth of Donne’s Holy Sonnets


(i) Death be not …….. souls deliveries

The given lines are form the Octave of the Petrarchan Sonnet ‘Death Be Not Proud’ written by John Donne, the pioneer poet of metaphysical School. In this sonnet, Donne reflects upon the nature of death.

Addressing death, the poet says it that it is not mighty and dreadful. It is not powerful because it does not kill the poet. Rest and sleep are the pictures of death and therefore much pleasure must inevitably flow from it. When the best of the human beings are said to go with death, it is only because that brings rest for their weary bones and relieve their souls from the sufferings of the earth.


(ii) Thou art slave to ……….. thou sh

all die,

The given lives form the Sestet of the Petrarchan sonnet ‘Death Be Not Proud’ written by John Donne, the pioneer poet of Metaphysical school. In this poem, John Donne says that Death has no terror for him.

Addressing Death, the poet says that it is no more than a slave to fate, kings and desperate men, for it acts at their command. It resides with poison, war and sickness. Poppies and Charms can also put men to as deep sleep as death can. This sleep is better than the sleep induced by death. Why, then ask the poet, does death feel so proud of itself? Death can bring short interval of sleep, after which the soul wakes for eternity.
Thus, with the soul’s awakening, death itself dies. It ceases to exist.

Literary Devices

The poem discussed in the unit relates to three important Literary terms : (a) Petrarchan Sonnet (b) Lyric (c) Metaphysical conceit. Here we intend to acquaint you in brief with all the three.

Petrachan Sonnet

The term “sonnet” derives from the Provencal word “sonnet” and the Italian word “sonetto,” both meaning “little song.” By the thirteenth century, it had come to signify a poem of fourteen lines that follows a strict rhyme scheme and logical structure. The conventions associated with the sonnet have evolved over its history. The writers of sonnets are known as “sonneteers. “Traditionally, when writing sonnets, English poets usually employ iambic pentameter. In the Romance languages, the hendeca syllable and Alexandrine are the most widely used.

The Italian sonnet (or Petrarchan, named after Petrarch, the Italian poet) was probably invented by Giacomo da Lentini, head of the Sicilian School under Frederick II. Guittone d’Arezzo rediscovered it and brought it to Tuscany where he adapted it to his language when he founded the Neo-Sicilian School (1235-1294). He wrote almost 300 sonnets. Other Italian poets of the time, including Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) and Guido Cavalcanti (c. 1250-1300) wrote sonnets, but the most famous early sonneteer was Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) The Italian sonnet was dividend into an octave (resp. two tercets), which provided a resolution, with a clear break between the two sections. Typically, the ninth line created a “turn” or volta, which signaled the move from propositions to resolution. Even in sonnets that don’t strictly follow the problem/resolution structure, the ninth line still often marks a “turn” by signaling a change the in the tone, mood, or stance of the poem.

A sonnet is a short poem of fourteen lines, expressing one single idea or feeling. It consists of two parts – the Octave, a stanza of eight lines and the Sestet, a stanza of six. The Octave has the rhyme scheme ab, ba, ab, ba, and the Sestet cde, cde (and sometimes cdc, dce; or cde, dce). At the ed of the Octave, there is a well marked pause which is known as Casura. It is followed by Volta which means turn in the thought. This turn in though implies that the thought has been given a new applications. From its brilliant use by Petrarch, the sonnet is known as Petrarchan sonnet. Besides, it is also known as Italian sonnet and classical sonnet; it is known Italian sonnet because it flourished in Italy, and classical sonnet for its being the model which other countries followed later. ‘Death Be Not Proud’ is a Petrarchan sonnet.


In classical literature, a lyric meant a song that was sung to the accompaniment of the lyre, a musical instrument. Now-a-days, it means any short musical poems dealing with a single emotion. It is a subjective poem, expressing the varying moods of the author. It has a definite structure.

Metaphysical conceit

The metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century, Donne, Marvell, Herbert, and others often use an extreme from of logical paradox or apparent self-contradiction. This figure is a kind of conceit. The term conceit is used for any extensive and witty comparison or bringing together of dissimilar things. A ‘metaphysical conceit” is a far-fetched and ingenious extended comparison (or “conceit” used by metaphysical poets to explore all areas of knowledge. It finds telling and unusual analogies for the poet’s ideas in the startlingly esoteric or the shockingly commonplace — not the usual stuff of poetic metaphor. John Donne is considered a master of the conceit, an extended metaphor that combines two vastly unlike ideas into a single ideas into a single idea, often using imagery. Unlike the conceits found in other Elizabethan poetry, most notably Petrarchan conceits, which formed cliched comparisons between more closely related objects (such as a rose and love), Metaphysicl conceits go to a greater depth in comparing two completely unlike objects, although sometimes in the mode of Shakespeare’s radical paradoxes and imploded contraries. One of the most famous of Donne’s conceits is found in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning where he compares two lovers who are separated to the two legs of a compass. In The Good Morrow John Donne says that love transforms into a completer world by focusing the lover’s attention on each other; this is a conceit. In brief, in a conceit, a comparison is often instituted between objects that have ostensibly little in common with each other.


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