Views of death in John Donne's poetry

Essay by onurcavusgilUniversity, Bachelor'sA, December 2002

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John Donne's complex personality plays an important role in his poetry. His intellect, and as a result his work, demonstrates various opinions that at times conflict or agree with each other. These opposing views represent one of the facinating aspects of his poetry. Seldom is this divergence presented as clearly and frequently as in the theme of death , as will be illustrated by the following essay.

As with most poets of his time, Donne was obsessed with death. Mesmerized by its mysteries, charmed by its allure, and convinced of the existence of an afterlife (as a result of Christian theology) , he finds himself at times unable to settle on a particular view of the subject. While a considerale portion of Donne's opus deals with death either directly or indirectly , some poems depict death as infignificant while other present it as something he , and therefor humans , should fear.

As a Christian , Donne believed the conception of an afterlife. This conviction is shown by his understanding of death as a necessary stage before reaching the glory of heaven, the promised life with God. His contradictory behavior is demonstrated by a fear of death, sometimes expressed in his search for ways in which he could triumph over it instead of becoming his victim, which fueled his interest in practice of suicide.

One of the holly sonnets Death Be Not Be Proud, presents the contradictory views of Donne. The opening lines, "death be not proud,though some have called thee/ mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so"demonstrate his own uncertainity on the issue, since that "some" he mentions includes him at times. However, he denies the power of death in the very next line, and proceeds to list several reasons why.