Death, be not proud Questions and Answers

John Donne

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting Death, be not proud questions.

When was "Death, be not proud" written and published?

"Death, be not proud" by John Donne (1572–1631) is Sonnet X of the poet's sonnet sequence, Holy Sonnets. It was probably written between February and August of 1609 in response to Donne's bout of some sort of serious illness. It was not published during Donne's lifetime, but appears in the handwritten Westmoreland Manuscript (ca. 1620) and two major early posthumous collections of his work, Songs and Sonnets (1633) and Divine Meditations (1635).

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

"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.