I well remember when I first read this sonnet. I was fourteen years old and in the ninth grade. My English teacher was auditioning people to represent the class in the upcoming Forensics (public speaking) competition. She simply handed me this sonnet and told me to read it in front of the other students.
Maybe that's why it had such an impact on me. The very first time I read it, I was reading it out loud and before an audience. And so it was imprinted not only in my mind but in my ear. It continues, after all these years, to affect me profoundly:
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'rt 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.
-- John Donne