Donne uses a direct quotation at the end of this paradox, ‘’I leave the world, the flesh, the devil.’’ Is a direct quotation from the Holy Baptism which refers to the start of life where sins are forgiven. I think Donne is questioning the afterlife and wondering if he can get forgiven before he moves on. ‘’Impute me righteous’ ’ Is Donne questioning God, because he feels like his sins will weigh him down to hell and therefore result in him not reaching heaven. Both paradoxes link to the Christian life and Donne’s ability to question how much he knows about the afterlife. Donne’s married his wife Anne More just before Christmas in 1601.
The wedding ruined Donne’s career and earned him a short stay in Fleet Prison along with Samuel Brooke who married them. It was not until 1609 that Donne was reconciled with his father-in-law and received his wife’s dowry. Anne bore twelve children in sixteen years of marriage including two stillbirths. In a state of despair, Donne noted that the death of a child would mean one less mouth to feed, but he could not afford the burial expenses. Anne died on 15th August 1617, five days after giving birth to their twelfth child, a still-born baby. Donne mourned her deeply. Antonio S. Oliver said on Donne’s relationship with Anne, ‘’Donne’s wife’s death in 1617 was a prolific source of inspiration for Donne’s poetry.’’ I strongly agree with this statement however, we do not know whether his poems are written about his wife for sure but we know that the relationship that he had with Anne clearly influenced his outlook on life and also his outlook on death.
Donne himself was extremely fearful of being judged and being sent to hell. However, in ‘This Is My Play’s Last Scene’ Donne uses some pleasant metaphor’s to show different ways of seeing death. Some examples are ‘’My Pilgrimage’s last mile.’’ ‘’My span’s last inch.’’ ‘’My minutes latest point.’’, these metaphor’s for approaching death are very calming with no actual Christian reference showing that it isn’t just his faith that keeps his attitude towards death quite cool and collected and overall making death sound inevitable. Donne was an apostate and risked eternal damnation. Damnation was no myth as far as Donne and his contemporaries were concerned.
Hell was a vivid reality to most people at the time, and it was believed to be a pit of fire where you burn in agony eternally. Donne’s decision over whether to become an Anglican was one which we are told to have been an agonisingly long and hard choice. Many of Donne’s poems reflect his tortured soul-searching for answers about what to do in this specific decision. Antonio S. Oliver said of Donne ‘’It is safe to assume he did not fear death in the conventional manner, for he believed in the concept of an afterlife.’’ I agree with this statement as it obvious that Donne believed in the afterlife as it shows that he spent a lot of time theologising over what the afterlife was and what happened if you were not accepted into heaven. In ‘Death Be Not Proud’ Donne refers to death as ‘’rest and sleep’’ which is what we all look forward to after a day’s hard work and ultimately shows death in a non-fearing way and shows it as something we should welcome.
Emily Dickinson is views death in the same inevitable way. After the carriage of death stopped for her to get on board, she says ‘’we slowly drove, he knew no haste,’’ showing that we shouldn’t rush to death and that it will take you the way it wants. Dickinson refers to adulthood as the ‘gazing grain,’ and refers to death as ‘’the setting sun.’’ Similarly to the way Donne referred to death as being rest after a hard day working. Dickinson seems to embrace death in a much more pleasant way as she doesn’t ask any questions and see’s death as something natural, like going home to God.
The poem ‘Because I could Not Stop For Death’ seems more accepting of death than both Donne’s poems, however Dickinson does portray an instant fear of death when she says ‘’The dews grew quivering and chill’’ stating this temperature change where she suddenly goes cold shows a ripple of fear she has underneath, possibly the realisation that she is approaching death. At the end of the poem Dickinson uses the word ‘’eternity’’ which shows her fear and clinging onto what she always believed in, life after death.
Donne has had quite a few near death experiences where he probably experience the sudden temperature change within his body when the realisation of his death because all that more real. In late November and early December 1623 Donne suffered a near-fatal illness, thought to be either typhus or a combination of a cold followed by a period of fever. He earned a reputation as an eloquent preacher and 160 of his sermons have survived, including the famous Death’s Duel sermon delivered at the Palace of Whitehall before King Charles I in February 1631. It is thought that his final illness was stomach cancer, although this has not been proven. Donne died on 31st March 1631. Donne was buried in St Pauls Cathedral where he served as Dean for 10 years, where a memorial statue of him was erected. Donne’s monument survived the 1666 fire, maybe the same way that Donne himself survived Hell?