On Death...

Today is national poetry day, and I've been struck by how many people have cited Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle" as one of their favourite poems. It is an amazing, emotionally charged poem, calling for defiance in the face of death. But it is one that speaks, ultimately of a sense of hopelessness.
I think that poetry, or that poetry put to music in the form of lyrics, enables us to address profound human, spiritual issues in a way that prose cannot. Perhaps it is the careful crafting of thought and emotion required for good poetry, I don't know why... But my own favourite poem on the subject of our mortality is a sonnet by John Donne. It is just as defiant in the face of death, but is suffused with the Christian hope of resurrection. So here's my posting in honour of National Poetry Day, and I post it partly in honour of my colleague Rev Wilfred Agnew, who, last night went to his reward after many years serving his Master in this sphere:

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.
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 souls delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better then thy stroke; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne (1573-1631)


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