I’m ending 2016 with another viewing (’ve stopped counting how many) of one of my favorite films, favorite because of its sobering and ultimately simplifying effect, Margaret Edson’s play “Wit” produced and acted by Emma Thompson (2001). The film is built around Donne’s Holy Sonnet X (incorrectly referred to as Holy Sonnet VI in the movie, I’m sorry to say). It is a morbid film in all the right ways because it sobers and simplifies the way the Void is sobering and simplifying when faced honestly. The right questions about death are always about questions about life.
Holy Sonnet X
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 poppie, 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.