In the first few lines of the poem, which is a sonnet, Donne uses a series of metaphors to describe his death. He first compares it to "my play's last scene" and then to "my pilgrimage's last mile," the "last pace" of his "race," his "span's last inch," and "my minute's last point." He repeats the word "my" and emphasizes that death approaches for him. Some of the metaphors he uses are religious, such as "pilgrimage," while others, such as a "span" (which is the distance between two points, such as the ends of a bridge), come from the physical world. He later refers to "sleeping a space," which is also a metaphor for death. The repetition of different metaphors for death emphasizes its inevitability.
He then writes, using personification, that "ever-gluttonous death" (making death into a voracious kind of animal) will "unjoint," or take apart, his body and soul. While his body will remain on earth, his soul will fly to heaven. In this part of the poem, Donne expresses his metaphysical belief that the body is separate from the soul. While his body remains earthbound, his sins will fall into the ground, where they belong, and his body will soar to heaven, free of sin. At the end of the poem, which concludes with a couplet, Donne writes, "For thus I leave the world, the flesh, the devil." The last line includes a series of images that are very powerful, as Donne writes that he will leave the world, his body, and the Devil (a symbol for sin) behind when he ascends to heaven.