Death, be not proud by John Donne

Start Your Free Trial

Explain how Donne's use of paradox helps convey the message/theme of the poem of "Death, be not proud."

Expert Answers info

David Wisar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2019

write318 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

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...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 737 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write6,940 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial