Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)
by John Donne
Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10) Summary
Right off the bat, the speaker starts talking smack to Death, whom he treats as a person. He tells Death not to be so proud, because he’s really not as scary or powerful as most people think. The speaker starts talking in contradictions, saying that people don’t really die when they meet Death – and neither will the speaker. Then, he really tries to burn Death’s biscuit by comparing him to "rest and sleep," two things that aren’t scary at all. Next, to paraphrase Billy Joel, the speaker claims that "only the good die young," because the best people know that death brings pleasure, not pain.
As if this isn’t enough trash-talk, the speaker kicks it up a notch, calling Death a "slave" and accusing him of hanging out with those lowlifes "poison, war, and sickness." Besides, we don’t need Death – the speaker can just take drugs, and it will have the same effect: falling asleep. So death is just a "short sleep," after which a good Christian will wake up and find himself in Eternity. Once this happens, it will seem like Death has died. How do you like them apples?