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Symbol Analysis

Many poems try to describe what the end of life will be like, but this one goes even further – it describes what the end of death will be like. In Christian theology, death is the price of admission into the afterlife, which really begins after the world has ended. People who have died before the world ends (that is, most people) are compared to sleepers waiting for the "dawn" of Judgment Day. The poem begins with angels blowing their trumpets to bring the dead back to life, and to reunite their souls with their bodies. The end of the poem also alludes to death: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

  • Lines 3-4: There must have been a lot of dead people throughout history, but certainly not "numberless infinities." That's an exaggeration, or hyperbole.
  • Lines 5-6: The repetition of the same word at the beginning of lines is called anaphora.
  • Lines 6-7: The speaker gives a catalogue, or list, of causes of death.
  • Line 9: Donne uses a very common religious metaphor in comparing death as a "sleep" before the end of time, when both good and bad people will be "woken up" to meet their eternal fate. Also, in this line, the speaker shifts the object of his apostrophe: he's now talking to God.

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