Study Guide

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10) What's Up With the Title?

By John Donne

What's Up With the Title?

This poem has no title. See another section.

OK, OK, we should probably say something about the Holy Sonnets. "Death, be not proud" belongs to a sequence of poems known as the Holy Sonnets. In all, there are nineteen. And, no, Donne is not an arrogant jerk who thinks that his poems are sacred objects – the title just means that the poems are about religion.

The poems are not published until after Donne’s death in 1631, but they appear in editions of Donne’s work in 1633 and 1635 under this name. "Death, be not proud" is usually known as the tenth poem in the sequence, or Holy Sonnet X. But, this number is arbitrary, too. It appeared as X in the 1635 edition, but not in the earlier one. A lot of people just refer to it as "Death, be not proud" based on the first line, although, as we point out in our "Detailed Summary," there is actually no comma after "Death" in the original version.

Do you need to know any of this? Probably not. But, it goes to show that titles are a lot more fluid back in the English Renaissance. Poets don’t feel the need to name everything: they can just let the work speak for itself.

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