W. H. Auden's poem "Stop All the Clocks", and John Donne's poem "Holy Sonnet 10" each address the theme of death with unique perspective. Donne in "Holy Sonnet 10" reflects upon the inevitability of death. Using the Petrarchan sonnet form, Donne is able to have an intimate conversation with Death that reasons through its impact. Conversely, Auden in "Stop All the Clocks", catapults the reader into an overly tragic and emotional exposition of loss created by death. The strong diction of the poem arrests the emotions, allowing the reader to feel the impact of death. Through varied devices of diction, personification, imagery, consonance, sibilance, contrasts, enjambment and caesura each poet establishes the tone of his poem. Both poems accept and confront the end that death creates: Donne intellectualizes the inevitability of death; Auden over emotionalizes the loss created by death.
Auden's "Stop All the Clocks" begins with the dramatic words, "Stop all the clocks" (1) expressing the persona's emotional desire to stop all the things that are within his control as death itself has left him powerless.
The strong imperatives of "Stop", "Prevent" and "Silence" (1,2,3) command the auditor to share in the active despair. Comparatively, in Donne's "Holy Sonnet 10" death is personified, challenged, and subsequently infantilized throughout the poem. The persona addresses Death directly stating, "Death, be not proud" (1). By addressing Death and lecturing against pride, Donne reduces the ominous nature of death as if counseling an inferior. Although many view Death as "Mighty and dreadful" (2), Donne precludes the reader the emotion of fear, thereby intellectualizing Death by stating: "thou art not so;" (2), using monosyllables to reduce the magnitude of Death's power.
In contrast, the persona of Auden's poem overwhelms the reader with the emotion of grief. The...