Summary of John Donne’s Death Be Not Proud

Death Be Not Proud, also known as Sonnet 10, is a sonnet by English poet John Donne.


In this sonnet, Donne reflects upon the nature of death. Addressing death, the poet says that it is not mighty and dreadful. It is not powerful because it does not kill the poet. Rest and sleep are the pictures of death and therefore much pleasure must inevitably flow from it. When the best of human beings are said to go with death, it is only because that brings rest for their weary bones and relieve their souls from the sufferings of the earth.

The poet says that it is no more than a slave to fate, kings and desperate men, for it acts at their command. It resides with poison, war and sickness. Poppies and Charms can also put men to as deep sleep as death can. This sleep is better than the sleep induced by death. Why then ask the poet, does death feel so proud of itself? Death can bring short intervals of sleep, after which the soul wakes for eternity. Thus, with the soul’s awakening, death itself dies. It ceases to exist.

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