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    Juan J. Sánchez
  Thu Dec 24, 2015 11:02 pm
I'm a doctor in Costa Rica.
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Location: Costa Rica
Happy Christmas, everyone! :toot: :cheers:

I've been wanting to write about poetry for a while, but I don't know nearly enough about the subject to start my own blog, so I thought it might be interesting to do instead a discussion board. Once or twice a week I can post a poem, talk a bit about the author, and tell you what I personally think about the poem. Now, I don't really believe in literary analysis, so I'll strive to stay away from telling you what the poem "really is all about". :box: :box: :box:

Given that it's Christmas, I think it's appropriate to discuss a Holy Sonnet. That's right. Our first poem will be the infamous John Donne's Holy Sonnet X.

Holy Sonnet X by John Donne

So lets talk a little bit about John Donne. A contemporary of Shakespeare, John Donne was a poet and cleric of the Church of England born in Elizabethan England in 1572. He is the most famous of all the metaphysical poets, a group of guys who enjoyed writing long and complex metaphors within their poems, usually on subjects like love or religion. He is also well known for a couple of phrases (which you must have heard at some point in your life): "no man is an island" and "for whom the bell tolls".

The Poem

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.


A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme structure. The structure can be one of many, but this particular poem has a ABBA ABBA CDD CAA structure. Other sonnets may end in CDC CDC, CDE CDE, etc. There's really no set rule of how to write a sonnet.

You might have also noticed that it has 9 syllables per line. This is a pretty common number of syllables. In Spanish, perhaps because we have longer words, you usually see a greater syllable count, like 11 or 14.

This is one of my favorite poems. I like how the subject addresses Death directly, like if it were a person.

The first segment is pretty self-explanatory. "Death, be not proud", as in "Death, get of your high-horse; you're not scary and I know all those guys you said you killed aren't really dead". I like the last sentence, which says "nor yet canst thou kill me". I'm not too sure about this one, but I guess it goes along the lines of "if you didn't kill them, then you can't kill me".

The second segment goes on to explain why Death isn't scary. "From rest and sleep [...] much pleasure" is straight-up saying that death must be nice and that those who die find their rest.

The third segment is the best one. Donne tells Death that he (/she/it?) is nothing but a slave to others (Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men). Death doesn't get to control his actions, so then it shouldn't go around boasting about what he does. And "poppy or charms" (as in morphine and other stuff) can also make you go to sleep (which Donne had previously said was a "picture" of Death).

The final segment goes on to tell Death that "poppy or charms" even do a better a job. I've never had any opiates, but I bet it's true; people really like overdosing on heroin. "Why swells't thou then?" I think is kind of like saying "Why do you even bother?". Now, Donne as a cleric believed in eternal life. For him dying meant going to sleep and then waking up in paradise, again explaining why those that Death said it killed didn't really die.

The last sentence is probably the most memorable aside from "Death, be not proud". It says "Death, thou shalt die", basically telling us that all things come to and end, even death.

Now, I do think it's interesting that the death in "death shall be no more" is the only one that isn't capitalized, but I think it's just to distinguish between death, the action, and Death, the person.

So in summary it's just a poem about giving Death the middle finger and telling it to go f**k itself.


If you guys have anything interesting to say about the poem, or sonnets, or John Donne, or maybe what you had for lunch yesterday, please write it down!

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