John Donne was not only the most renown English metaphysical poet of his time but also one of its most celebrated preachers. Donne's poetry falls into two basic groups, the early erotic and ironic verse and the later religious poems of which the "Holy Sonnets" are a major part. His love poetry centers on the nature and psychology of love. As a minister of the Anglican Church, Donne's religious poems powerfully express his yearning for union with God and his obsession with salvation and death (Benet 268). However, Donne did not avoid social problems and everyday concerns (Drabble 211). For example, one of the most cited lines in all of Donne's works is about the brotherhood of man: "As not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. . .The death of any man diminishes me" (Donne 298). .
The theme or main idea of "Holy Sonnet 10," which also goes under the title "Death Be Not Proud," the first line of the poem, emphasizes Donne's firm belief in the immortality of the soul. The dramatic power of the poem lies largely in its technique of personifying death and addressing it as if it were and arrogant person who believe that he is invulnerable and all-powerful. Although all men must some day dies since they are all mortal, death itself still ought not be proud or think that it is what men most fear. Why? Donne himself says it best in his closing couplet: "One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die ." .
On December 16, 1959 my father died most unexpectedly at age fifty-six. It was during my first year of teaching at De La Salle Military Academy in Kansas City, Missouri. When I returned to Saint Louis for the wake, funeral, and burial at Calvary Cemetery, I was so overcome with grief that I could think of nothing else to do but take up a book that my mother had left on an end table. It happened to be a collection of John Donne's poetry.