As a religious work, this sermon brings an inner peace and sanctity to the audience. Donne cleverly reveals Death as nothing more than a restful sleep, the short step between earth and Heaven.
The persona of the poem is a hero, defaming Death and bringing hope and peace to the community. The voice of the hero confronts the cosmic power of Death unafraid. The persona unmasks Death and shows that Death's pride is ill-founded; based on empty accomplishments. Our hero is so great that he/she can show pity for Death's blind pride.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me These opening stanzas are bold, a very fitting entrance for pride. The voice is assertive, facing Death staunchly. Immediately, the convention of personification is used. Death obtains the human vice of pride.
The author mocks Death and proves Death's pride is undeserved. Death is shown to be a fool. Death's power to take someone's life is personified. Death "overthrows" life. The word choice of "overthrow" is special indeed. It connotes a battle, a war. Thus, life and death are arch-enemies, pitched in battle.
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. This quatrain begins a new idea and starts with a different convention. Here, Death is described with a metaphor. Death is a picture, harmless and inanimate. It is motionless, like rest and sleep. Here metonymy, a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated, is used. Death is a final rest, the ultimate sleep. Death is not real, nor tangible, but foggy and in world dominated by dreams.
The use of repetitive m's (alliteration), "much more must," creates a ripple like that in a still pond, caused by a rock.