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Last Reviewed on May 27, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 416

"Death, be not proud" is one of John Donne's Holy Sonnets. Written using the fourteen-line sonnet form, it utilizes the closing rhymed couplet to underline its conclusion and key message, which is that although humans might be afraid of Death, Death ultimately does not have any jurisdiction over them.

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Donne addresses Death directly, personifying him and prevailing upon him not to be "proud." He states that, although many in the past have suggested that Death is powerful and "dreadful," this is really not the case, because those whom Death believes he has destroyed have not actually been destroyed by him. Death may believe he has the power to "overthrow" them, but this is not true—nor can he kill the speaker of the poem.

The second quatrain of the sonnet goes on to elucidate why the speaker believes this to be the case. The speaker points out that "rest and sleep," which are only versions of Death on a smaller scale, are actually enjoyed by those on earth: they give humans "pleasure." Therefore, it only stands to reason that Death itself must actually provide a still greater pleasure, and so of course the "best men" from among the human race will go with Death eventually. Death will not only provide them with pleasure of the same sort that sleep provides, but it will also be their "soul's delivery"—it will result in their ascension to heaven, where they will meet God; and ultimately, they will have been saved from Death.

Next, the speaker points out that Death does not himself wield very...

(The entire section contains 416 words.)

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