In “Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare and “Death” by John Donne, both poems describe how death is escaped. Both writers suggest that we shouldn’t fear death, because with death comes life. The use of imagery, metaphors, and personification are used to develop these themes of the sonnets. However, each sonnet addresses how they view immortality in different ways. While “Sonnet 18” focuses on immortality by capturing beauty, immortality in “Death” is viewed through a religious perspective.
The speaker of the poem “Death” shows fearlessness in the first stanza of the poem. “Death be not proud, though some have called thee/Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so” (1-2). Here death is being personified and confronted about his arrogant ways. The speaker lets death know that he is not as strong and scary as people perceive him to be. In the following lines death is brought down even more. The speaker reveals that death can’t really end our life because when we die we would then begin living eternally. John Donne uses his belief in Christianity to suggest to the reader there is life after death. The writer uses a metaphor in line five to compare death to “rest and sleep” to make matters worse. “From Rest and Sleep, which but thy picture be” (5). Rest and sleep are two things that are peaceful and calm, and are things we aren’t scared of at all. Sleep is interpreted as a temporary death which we wake up from in this poem. The speaker talks about how death is doing people a favor by ending their life.
“And soonest our best men with thee do go-/Rest of their bones and souls’ delivery” (7-8). These two stanzas propose that when death presents itself to us, we will finally be relieved of the pain, agony, and troubles of the world. Within stanza nine, imagery is used to describe the true image of death. Death is characterized as a servant who follows the rules of fate, chance, and kings as they are the only ones who make the calls on who dies or not.“Thou’rt slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men” (9). While death tries to fool us into to thinking he is the one who controls us, we realize that Death is really the one who is being controlled. As we read through the poem, we find out things about Death like who he associates with. The writer makes Death seem like someone we should not be afraid of when he affiliates him with poison, war, and sickness.
In contrast the speaker’s beloved escapes death in “Sonnet 18” because he is written about in a poem. The poem starts off showing appreciation towards beauty by asking if he should compare his friend to a summer’s day (1). Within this stanza development, the speaker uses imagery to describe his beloved to a summer day. When we talk about summer time, we think of nice weather, nature’s beauty, and sunshine, all things which are compared to his beloved. Shakespeare repeatedly uses the word “more” in the second stanza to further suggest how beautiful this person is. He continues to going into detail about his friend, and how “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, and often is his gold complexion dimm’d” (5-6). Here the eye of heaven is a metaphor that is represented as the sun.
The writer comments on summer’s imperfections to remind the reader that summer isn’t always perfect. Sometimes summer is too hot, and other times the sun is dimmed by the clouds. We capture the temporariness of summer’s season in Shakespeare’s sonnet as well. Stanzas seven through nine emphasize how everything eventually comes to an end as time goes on (7-9). We know that as fall approaches and the weather becomes colder, nature becomes vulnerable. Leaves begin to fall from the trees and flowers begin to die. The writer makes a contradiction about the mortality of his beloved though. “But thy eternal summer shall not fade” (9).
This suggests that his beloved’s beauty will not end like the season of summer does. Finally the writer explains that as long as people are alive to read poems, his beloved will be immortal because the sonnet brings life to the person he is referring to (13-14). These last stanzas reveal a metaphor that argues his beloved is better than a summer day because unlike summer, his beloved’s beauty will never fade. Both sonnets escape the inevitable because of their different views on death. While the writer of “Sonnet 18” defeats death by capturing beauty in a poem, John Donne defeats death by belief of what is to come after this life. These two poems suggest that we shouldn’t fear mortality because it only reveals life after death.
Donne, John. “Death.” The Giant Book of Poetry.
Ed. William Roetzhem. San Diego: Level Four Press, Inc.2006. 21. Print. Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet XVIII.” The Giant Book of Poetry.
Ed. William Roetzhem. San Diego: Level Four Press, Inc.2006. 13.Print.
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