Death be not Proud: NBSE, ISC Class 12 solutions, answers, notes
Here, you will find a summary and questions/answers of the poem “Death be not Proud” by John Donne which is a part of Class 12 syllabus for students studying under NBSE and ISC.
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‘Death be Not Proud’ is one of the great metaphysical poet John Donne’s nineteen Holy Sonnets. Donne, a classic Renaissance product, developed a type of love and religious poetry that captivated its readers with its wit, conceits, fantastic imagery, erudite complexity, colloquial and dramatic styles. Donne’s poetry shows the unusual confluence of reason and passion — a trait known as “Unified Sensibility.”
This poem deconstructs the conventional image of death as a formidable ruler. The poet offers an unusual perspective on death. Donne addresses the poem to Death, implying that Death should not be proud of itself. Death, according to popular belief, is neither frightening nor strong. It has no control over the immortal soul. The poet illustrates his point with examples of rest and slumber. He claims that rest and sleep are merely euphemisms for death. Rest and sleep provide us with joy. As a result, dying should bring far more pleasure, which is the actual thing. Second, our best men are taken from us far too young. Their bones are rejuvenated, and their souls are liberated. As a result, dying is not a terrifying experience.
Now, the poet debunks the widely held assumption that death is all-powerful. Death, in truth, is a prisoner, a slave to fate, chance, cruel kings, and wicked men. It is associated with poison, battle, and sickness. Opium and other narcotics have the same impact on us as death in terms of putting us to sleep. They do, in fact, help us sleep better. Death cannot function on its own level. As a result, death should not be proud of its abilities.
Finally, the poet states that death is a form of sleep from which the soul awakens to live eternally and becomes immortal. Then death has no hold over us. In other words, the soul triumphs over death; it is death that dies. Donne thus lowers death and joyfully reveals its impotence. It is not frightening or overpowering in any manner. As a result, we should not be afraid of death because it has no influence over our souls.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. What is the genre of the poem “Death, Be Not Proud”?
Answer: The poem is written in iambic pentameter and is an example of a Shakespearean sonnet.
2. What is the speaker’s take on Death? What are the many forces that cause it?
Answer: Death is portrayed as someone deserving of scorn rather than reverence. Death, according to lines nine and ten, can only act when it is brought about by fate, chance, monarchs, desperate individuals, poison, battle, and sickness.
3. What is the significance of Donne’s statement that those whom Death believes he kills “die not”?
Answer: According to the speaker, death is merely a halt in life, and people who die are simply waiting to awaken to eternal life. As a result, death should not be proud.
4. Explain the relevance of the caesurae in the final line of the poem.
Answer: The placement of a semicolon between “more” and “death” implies that death is simply a halt for the dying. The comma after “death” implies that death is the victim of dying rather than the person. Because once someone dies, death no longer has the ability to live for that person.
5. Discuss the opening lines of the sonnet ‘Death be not Proud.’
Answer: In the poem’s first lines, Donne addresses Death and asks it not to be proud. Death has been described as forceful and frightening by some, but this is not the case. Death, according to Donne, is a lowly thing, not a mighty one. Death does not genuinely murder the persons it believes it has killed. Rather, their souls become eternal, and they awaken to live forever. As a result, the soul becomes more powerful and conquers death.
6. Who, in the poet’s opinion, are the agents of death?
Answer: Poison, war, and sickness, according to the poet, are the agents of death. Death is present in their awful company. To kill a person, Death must enlist the assistance of these evil agents. Death, in truth, is a victim of fate, chance, harsh kings, and terrible individuals. Opium and other narcotics have the same impact on us as death in terms of putting us to sleep. They do, in fact, help us sleep better. Death cannot function on its own level. That is why death is not terrifying and powerful.
7. What does the word ‘slave’ imply?
Answer: According to John Donne, death is a hostage or slave to the power of fate, chance, monarchs, and wicked men. This slave picture of death implies that death is powerless. It is not self-sufficient and cannot function at its own level. It merely executes fate’s and chance’s directions and kills others. It must rely on poison, conflict, and sickness to demonstrate its effectiveness.
8. Based on your reading of “Death be not Proud,” what conclusions do you draw about Donne’s religious faith?
Answer: Donne is a classic Renaissance figure who wrote a type of love and religious poetry that catches the reader’s attention with its wits, conceits, and fantastic imagery. His poetry can be tough and obscure at times, rendering it incomprehensible to the average reader.
This poem demonstrates the poet’s strong religious beliefs. All religious Christians believe in the soul’s immortality. Similarly, Donne, who is deeply religious, claims that Death has no influence over the soul. It can only kill our bodies. The soul becomes immortal after death and awakens eternally in paradise. Rather, it is the soul that triumphs over death. Death, according to Donne, is a lowly thing, not a mighty one. The poet pities death for its weakness and vulnerability by referring to it as ‘poor.’ Death, he claims, is neither terrifying nor strong. Death is simply a sort of relaxation and slumber that provides us with far more pleasure.
Death is once again described by the poet as a slave of fate, chance, monarchs, and wicked men. It is associated with poison, battle, and sickness. It cannot work at its own level; it must enlist the assistance of its agents such as poison, war, and fate in order to finish a person. In other words, it is not self-contained. It has no power and should not take pride in killing someone. It is death itself that dies. Donne reduces death in this way, declaring cheerfully death’s impotence, and this poem demonstrates the poet’s genuinely religious nature.
9. Do you agree with Donne that death is nothing more than a “poor death”?
Answer: Yes, we completely agree with Donne that death is nothing but a poor death. The author deconstructs the conventional image of death as a terrible ruler in this poem. It accomplishes this by advancing the concept that death is as fleeting as sleep. People often feel that death is a horrible and powerful force. But the poet opposes death’s authority. The audacity of the argument is evident when Donne refers to death as “poor” because it is only a slave of fate, chance, monarchs, and terrible men. Death cannot function on its own level. To kill a person, poison, war, and sickness must be used. He compares death to slumber once more. He claims that rest and sleep are merely euphemisms for death. They provide us a lot of joy. As a result, dying should provide far more pleasure. Opium and other narcotics have the same impact on us as death in terms of putting us to sleep. They do, in fact, help us sleep better. Furthermore, our best men die young. Their bodies rest after death, and their souls become free. It has no influence over the soul. It can only kill bodies, not souls. For Donne, death is nothing more than a portal through which our spirit must pass in order to live an endless existence. Thus, the poem celebrates the immortality of the soul and the mortality of death. The soul triumphs over death; it is death that dies. The poem initially shocks the reader, but eventually convinces him of death’s insignificance.
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