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, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and souls deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Donne suffered a major illness that brought him close to death during his eighth year as an Anglican minister. The illness may have been typhoid fever, but in recent years it has been shown that he may have had a relapsing fever in combination with other illnesses.
The sonnet has an ABBA ABBA CDD CAA rhyme scheme (with a Scottish accent, the word "die" is pronounced \dee\, so it rhymes with thee, me, and eternally).
According to literary scholar and poet John Daniel Thieme, the poem expresses an open defiance against fate and death. Thieme describes Donne's speaker as "bold in his confidence that death ultimately will be defeated by the victory a saved soul experiences in resurrection. After 'one short sleepe past', eternal life snatches victory and power from death."