Friday, July 09, 2010

Poetry Friday: Death, Be Not Proud

Nearly three years ago we lost a friend and colleague at our school in Haiti. This week we lost another, and I want to post what I shared with my students when K. died in 2007. This is the poem my brother-in-law sent me when my grandmother died, and though I had read it before, reading it with fresh loss in mind made it resonate even more.

I recognized that this poem was a bit much for my seventh and eighth graders, so I wrote a paraphrase that I also shared with them. So, first, Donne's version, and then mine.

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)
by John Donne

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.

Death, don't think you're all that, even though some have said you're mighty and dreadful - you aren't. You think you're defeating those who die, but that's not the way it is, and you can't kill me, either. We get pleasure from rest and sleep, which are just imitations of you - won't we get even more pleasure when we die? As soon as good people die, they get rest for their bodies and freedom for their souls. You, Death, are a slave to many things - fate, chance, rulers, criminals. You hang out with poison, war, and sickness. If we want to sleep, we can always take Tylenol PM and get a better rest than you can give us, so what do you have to be proud about? After a short sleep, we'll wake to eternal life, and you, Death, won't even exist any more. Death: you're going to die!

Here's my original post of this paraphrase, complete with descriptions of middle schoolers and mourning.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at Carol's Corner.


Kathie said...

Love this poem! We had "One short sleep past, we wake eternally" engraved on my dad's gravestone. Eternal life - the final word! Bless you Ruth.

Janet said...

Love your paraphrase.

I'm sorry for your loss.