John Donne was an Anglican priest and prolific poet from the English Renaissance. Donne is famous for writing metaphysical poetry that used conceits (extended metaphors) to compare two especially dissimilar things. In the poem, “Sonnet X” (better known by its first line, “Death, Be Not Proud”) from Donne’s collection of “Holy Sonnets,” Donne presents a paradox that is essential to Christian ontology—specifically that Death will one day die.
The poem starts by admonishing Death, personified in the poem, to be humble despite its power:
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.
Even though Death might lay people low and can quench life, it is a temporary power that will end. The poet relates that even though people throughout time have feared Death, it has been fooled.
Donne explores this idea further in the ending couplet of the poem. In...
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