Death Be Not Proud By John Donne

1222 words - 5 pages

Death, to many people, is something that is feared and unwelcome. These people do not want their lives to end, or are afraid of life after death. Emily Dickinson gives a different perspective in her poem “Because I could not stop for Death”, as does John Donne in his poem, “Death Be Not Proud”. In their poems, death is welcome. Factors such as the way they were raised and their religious beliefs both have an influence on Dickinson’s and Donne’s poems.
Emily Dickinson lived from 1830 to 1856 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was raised in a political family that was very involved in Amherst society. The men in her family carried out a tradition of public service that was started by her grandfather, Samuel Dickinson. Though she had been born into a family that was prepared for a life of political activity and public affairs, she was not allowed to be involved because of her gender (Crumbley).
Her father was strict as she was growing up. He did not approve of some literature, including Walt Whitman. This caused Dickinson to be a bit rebellious. One of her father’s employees, Benjamin Franklin Newton, introduced Emily to writers William Wordsworth and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Before Newton died, he encouraged Emily to keep writing (Emily Dickinson - Biography). Dickinson began to write seriously around 1850. During this time, she withdrew herself from the public, though she still corresponded with many friends and associates. She often stayed inside her family’s home and rarely came out. During the later years of her life, Dickinson experienced losing many close relatives and friends. She lost her mother, father, her favorite pastor, and her nephew. When Dickinson died in 1886, her sister discovered around seventeen hundred poems, some of which would be published (Emily Dickinson - Biography).
Starting in the year 1847, Dickinson spent a year at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. While there, she was hesitant to commit herself to Christ in the manner expected by her friends and spiritual counselors, including Mount Holyoke's foundress, Mary Lyon. She continued to go to church and did believe in God, though she never claimed to fully understand him. She writes of God and religious beliefs in her poem, “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church - / I keep it staying at Home” (Emily Dickinson - Biography).
John Donne lived from 1572 until 1631. He was born in London to a Catholic family that was financially comfortable. He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge, but he did not obtain a degree at either institution. He later became private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He was relieved from this position and put in prison after Egerton discovered that Donne had married his niece, Ann More. In 1610, Donne came into King James’ good graces when he wrote “Pseudo-Martyr”, which stated that English Catholics could pledge an oath of allegiance to King James but maintain religious loyalty to the Pope...

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