Death Be Not Proud

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J Singh English Coursework

John Donne and Tony Harrison both discuss death in their poems. They were written in different eras and both poems have different views on this subject. John Donne had a rather privileged upbringing as he was born into a prosperous family and studied law at Oxbridge. Donne, however, was also unfortunate as he lost is father very early in his life and this could have affected his views on death. Tony Harrison on the other hand was born into a proud working class family in Leeds. Harrison’s poem is completely opposite to Donne’s as it tells the reader about his personal life and the unfortunate passing of his Mother.

“Death be not Proud” was written three hundred and fifty years ago and written in sonnet
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Possibly the saddest feature of the poem is the fact that, although both Harrison and his father himself know that the father isn’t coping very well, neither of them can bring themselves to talk about it. This exposes the inability of men (especially old, proud Yorkshire men like Harrison’s father) to speak openly about their feelings. Harrison’s father would see it as a sign of weakness to openly show his great sorrow and his “still raw love” to his son. The word raw is used to describe his love as an undressed wound and the pain is still constant. The poem is therefore painfully well observed and frustratingly honest. We feel very sorry for Harrison’s father and indeed for Harrison himself, who allowed his father to carry on the pretence without ever feeling able to help. His father is now dead, his phone number is “disconnected” and it is too late for Harrison to “call”. The final verse presents the reader with an antithetic juxtaposition. Harrison begins with stating that, “I believe life ends with death, and that is all”, (this contrasts to Donne, as he doesn’t believe in the afterlife). However, his actions do not support his statement, as although his parents are both dead, he still keeps their memory alive in his “new black leather phone book”, still “calling” their “disconnected number”. Harrison’s behaviour is hugely ironic, given the almost critical way in which he exposed his father’s frailties in the opening three verses, now, just like his
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