Monday, December 13, 2010

The power of words: Death Be Not Proud

As many who know me are aware, I have a rather peculiar memory. I remember quite a bit more than your average person.
During this period, and I thank all who reached out with support during it, I really do appreciate it, I was reminded of a poem we studied in highschool, as well as a movie I caught glimspes of regarding a cancer patient who was cataloging her battle with the disease.

The poem is Death be not Proud, by John Donne. The lady in the movie (blonde she was) stressed a statement I shall never forget; the last line of the poem is a direct challenge to death. I remember how she stressed that, by using a comma, the writer was in fact challenging death. That simple fact makes this poem truly spectacular, a literary wonder.

Another interpretation found here, states the following:

human beings do not die but live eternally after “one short sleep.” Although some people depict death as mighty and powerful, it is really a lowly slave that depends on luck, accidents, decrees, murder, disease, and war to put men to sleep. But a simple poppy (whose seeds provide a juice to make a narcotic) and various charms (incantations, amulets, spells, etc.) can also induce sleep—and do it better than death can. After a human being’s soul leaves the body and enters eternity, it lives on; only death dies. 

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

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