Can someone please translate the entire poem "Death Be Not Proud" into modern day English?

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Here is a modern translation of the poem "Death Be Not Proud" by John Donne:

Do not be proud Death, even though some have said that you are,
Powerful and frightening, because you are not,                          
For those, who think of you this way, you can deny it,                 
Do not die right now, poor death, because if you do you cannot kill me.                                                                                      
From rest and sleep, which you might see,                                  
Lots of pleasure, then from you, more must move,                         
Soon the best men will go with you,                                      
Their bones will rest, and souls be delivered.                             
You are a slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,       
And where poison, war, and sickness live,                                 
And poppies (a flower), or spells can bring us death as well,       
And better than your hand; why are you so proud then;           
One small sleep finished, then we will wake forever,                   
And death will no longer exist; death, you shall die.

teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

In this poem, the narrator is speaking to death as if he is a person, and more precisely, a bully full of hot air with no real power. The poet  is making fun of death and taunting him, saying he is a loser who has nothing to brag about and shouldn't think he can scare people. Here is a translation:

Don't be proud of yourself Death,  even if some people say you are

the powerful and scary one, because you're not;

The people you think you've killed

haven't really died, and you, lame, pathetic Death, can't kill me either.

Rest and sleep are what you are like,

and we enjoy resting and sleeping; and since you give us a stronger version of rest and sleep, we like you even more than normal resting and sleeping.

Our best people go with you first,

which is a rest for their bodies and liberates their souls.

You don't decide who dies: in fact, you are at the mercy of dumb luck, rulers, and criminals

You have to live with poison, war and disease,

and you are not special, because opium or sleeping pills can also put us to sleep

and do it better than you: so what are you bragging about?

All you do is put us to sleep for a little while, then we wake up forever

And we'll never be dead again; Death, you are the one who will die.

 

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