Dad at the Graves

Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud
BY JOHN DONNE
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 soul’s 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 than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

This was my dad on Sunday, looking at his parents’ graves in Santa Barbara. I could not get the photo to load on facebook, so I am putting it here.

For my students, what kind of sonnet is this? How can you tell?

For fans of Emma Thompson: Where does the comma go?

For my loved ones: What is Dad thinking? What is he remembering? What is he imagining?

Why are you crying?

About Margaret Blair Young

Margaret Blair Young teaches literature and creative writing at Brigham Young University. For the past fifteen years, she has specialized in the history of blacks in the west, particularly black Mormons. She has written six novels and two short story collections, but has lately become interested in filmmaking. Her current endeavor is a film to be shot in Zambia called Heart of Africa (www.heartofafricafilm.com)

  • http://www.robbieblair.com/ Robbie Blair

    I love that poem and the way Donne plays with rhythm in it for his double reversal in the final couplet.

    There are pieces of ourselves we lose and learn to forget. Sometimes we feel brave enough to remember. Sometimes we can still trace that hole inside our being the size and shape of the people we’ve lost.

    And I think Grandpa also knows that he carries the memories of his parents in a way that few, if any, still do. The memories awash in the tides of time—knowing that when he departs, so many of the memories of his parents depart from this world with him.

    I’m so glad we were able to arrange for this trip. I’m so grateful that it went well and Grandpa’s health remained in-tact. I was starting to get anxiety dreams about it. But then, sometimes worrying feels like a sacred act.

    • Margaret Blair Young

      Beautiful, Rob. What a fascinating idea–that worry can be sacred.


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