What type of meter and rhyme scheme does Donne use in "Death, be not proud"?

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The rhyme scheme of the first twelve lines of the poem is an alternating abab, where every other line rhymes. The last two lines, however, form a rhyming couplet, which is a technique often used by poets to suggest finality or closure. In this instance the poet wants the closing sentiment, that death shall be conquered, to be a final, unanswerable end to the poem.

The fact that the rhyme scheme changes in the final two lines also suggests that these two lines might represent the poem's volta. The volta is the moment in a poem where there is a change in tone or meaning. In the closing two lines, the negative attacks on death that make up the previous twelve lines are replaced by a more positive, triumphant declaration of the eternity of life after death. This poem then, if the volta is in the final two lines, would be classed as an English, or Shakespearean sonnet, as opposed to an Italian, or Petrarchan sonnet, where the volta is comprised of the last six lines.

The prosody, or metrical rhythm of the poem is iambic pentameter, where an iamb is a pair of syllables in which the first is unstressed and the second stressed. The prefix "pent" indicates that there are five iambs in each line. For example:

Death, be / not proud, / though some / have call/ed thee
In this line, the word "called," which by today's pronunciation would have one syllable, is formed of two syllables. In Renaissance England the "ed" suffix was generally pronounced as an extra syllable. The fact that the lines are in iambic pentameter also means that the poem has a rising meter, meaning that the last syllable of each line is stressed. A rising meter usually creates a more upbeat intonation, or tone, as opposed to a falling meter where the final syllable is unstressed. The upbeat intonation is fitting for this poem because the speaker is defiantly challenging the supposed dominion of death.
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"Death, be not proud" is written in the form of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, a fourteen-line poem consisting of an eight-line octave followed by a six-line sestet. In the genre, there is traditional a "turn" or shift in focus between the octave and the sestet; in this case, it shifts from a description of death's power to a more positive view of death from a Christian perspective as the beginning of eternal life.

The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABBA ABBA CDD CAA , with the first two open quatrains comprising the octave and the final six lines the sestet.

The meter of the poem is iambic pentameter, but it is notable for several initial trochaic substitutions. In lines 1, 2, 4, and 8, the first iambs of the lines are replaced with trochees. Also distinctive are the nature of the rhymes, in which several are actually assonances, consisting of identical long vowel sounds rather than the more common vowel-consonant combinations.

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