Death Be Not Proud by John Donne

T. S. Eliot coined the term “metaphysical poets” to describe a little crop of 17th century writers who bent the boundaries of description and comparison, and inspired some of the 20th century modernists, such as Eliot himself, to do the same thing. First among the metaphysical poets was John Donne, Anglican priest, amorous soul, Christian pastoral theologian and poet. Donne was as enamored of sex as he was of God. No wonder then that, at the end of his life, Donne stood up to challenge the angel of death that worried people so. For Donne, life was good, pleasurable and wonderful; obliteration in death was unimaginable.

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.

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