Death Be Not Proud (poem)
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|by John Donne|
Portrait of John Donne
|Written||between February and August 1609|
|First published in||Songs and Sonnets (1633)|
|Country||Kingdom of England|
|Subject(s)||Christianity, Mortality, Resurrection, Eternal Life|
|Genre(s)||religious poetry, devotional poetry|
|Rhyme scheme||abba abba cddcaa|
Sonnet X, also known by part of its first line as "Death Be Not Proud", is a fourteen-line poem, or sonnet, by English poet John Donne (1572–1631), one of the leading figures in the metaphysical poets of sixteenth-century English literature. Written between February and August 1609 the poem was not published during Donne's lifetime and was first published posthumously in 1633. It is included as one of the nineteen sonnets that comprise Donne's Holy Sonnets or Divine Meditations, among his most well-known works. Most editions number the poem as the tenth in the sonnet sequence, which follows the order of poems in the Westmoreland Manuscript (circa 1620), the most complete arrangement of the cycle, discovered in the late nineteenth century. However, two editions published shortly after Donne's death include some of the sonnets in different order where this poem appears as eleventh in the Songs and Sonnets (published 1633) and sixth in Divine Meditations (published 1635).
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.
The last line alludes to 1 Corinthians 15:26: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death".
In Popular Culture
- The poem is referenced in the title of John Gunther's memoir Death Be Not Proud.
- The poem is integral to Margaret Edson's one-act play Wit, which won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
- The opening line of the poem "Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so", is used as the introduction to the song "Follow the Reaper" by the band, "Children of Bodom".
- John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, ed. by Anthony Raspa (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1975), xii–xiv.
- Charles M. Coffin’s ed. Donne’s poetry, The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne (New York: The Modern Library, 1952
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