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martes, 27 de abril de 2010

"...POOR DEATH..."

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JOHN DONNE (1572-1631)

HOLY SONNETS:

SONNET 10

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


In the sonnet number ten of his work called "Holy Sonnets", John Donne (1572-1631) shows as the real face of Death, he wants to say that death is not terrible and he talks to Death, even, he mocks Death. Also, the author gives the idea of an eternal life that is more powerful than death, that at the end of the world will be defeated by life.
Before going to see the content of the poem, I have to say that it is a elizabethan sonnet which is conformed by fourteen lines, in three quatrains and one couplet of five feet. This sonnet is taken from his work "Holy Sonnets" as I had said before. The problem of the order and date of the nineteen poems called the "Holy Sonnets'' is very complicated. They have usually been numbered in sequence, but the traditional order has been convincingly questioned by Dame Helen Gardner in her edition of "Donne's Divine Poems" and is here not indicated. The first two in this selection were first published in 1635, the next five in 1633, the final two, entirely unconnected, not until 1894 and 1899 respectively. Most of the sonnets were probably written about 1609, but "Since she whom I lov'd" was written after the death of Donne's wife in 1617, and "Show me dear Christ" perhaps even later.
First, in the poem we can see that the author is talking to Death, that is personified. The whole poem is a message to Death, an attention called for Death so that it do not feel powerful, and besides, I think that one intention of Donne is to show us why Death is not powerful nor terrible as people think.
"Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;"
He begins by talking to Death, telling that is not as terrible as people think, then he adds the why:
"For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not..."
Here, the author gives the idea of the eternal life, because he says that all people who died, are not really dead. Then, the author mocks Death:
"...poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me."
Besides, Donne says that Death is not horrible because it represents rest for people who is tired.
"From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery."
Then the speaker says what Death really is:
"Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,"
Here I could say that the author gives us to understand that everybody dies because of the destination (fate) and because of the luck (chance). Also, I think that when the speaker says "kings and desperate men" he wants to say that everybody dies even if they want die or not, because for example, kings are supposed to be happy, so they do not want to die, and desperate men, on the contrary, want to die because they suffer. Everybody dies, so Death is slave of all the people because it does not rest because all the time it is going taking people with itself.
"And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,"
He shows where death dwell, it means, the several causes for people to die, and also, he gives the idea of that all these causes are so disagreeable: poison, war and sickness are very painful for people who have to tolerate them. This idea is connected with next, where the speaker reinforces the idea that the death is only a sleep and that a sleep can be given by other causes that are not disagreeable as death is:
"And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke;"
Then, he asks a question to death:
"why swell'st thou then?"
Perhaps this question will never be answered.
Last two lines of the poem, I think, are very important, because they are the final conclusion the author makes about death, and are the final ideas which reinforces what he has said during the whole poem. The first line says:
"One short sleep past, we wake eternally,"
In this line, the speaker gives us the key word of his idea of life "eternally". As he was a priest of the Anglican Church, he believed in God, so he believed what the Bible says about eternal life. If we go to see a reference in the Bible, we can find many parts, but now I want to refer to the gospel according to John chapter 3 verses 14 and 15 that says:
"...the Son of man be lifted up, that every one who believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal"
Because of this, he has said what he thought during the whole poem. He knows about the eternal life, so in the last line he says:
"And death all be no more; Death, thou shalt die."
And it makes reference to another part of Bible, in the revelation or apocalypse of John in chapter 21, verse 4:
"And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall not exist any more, nor grief, nor cry, nor distress shall exist any more for the former things have passed away."
The speaker of this poem knows that when God join to all people, death will die because it will not have anybody to take with itself.
We could see in this poem that John Donne believed in God and in eternal life, he saw death from another perspective, from his own point of view according to his believes and thoughts, he saw death as nothing, as a think that we shall defeat when we wake to eternal life, he thinks in death as "poor" because he knows, it is no powerful and successful as everybody thinks. I think in this poem, the author shows the real face of death, he shows the weakness of death and he knows that one day, when he be with God in heaven, death will not exist any more.

Marisol Rey Castillo © 2009



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