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John Hurt and John Donne

Saturday, 28 January, 2017

The late John Hurt starred in many films but there was something extra-special about his performance in The Hit, a 1984 British road movie directed by Stephen Frears. It also starred Terence Stamp, Tim Roth and Laura del Sol, and the music was by Eric Clapton, Roger Waters and the flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. In a crucial scene, Terence Stamp quotes from the John Donne sonnet, Death, be not proud: “One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”

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.

John Donne (1572 – 1631)


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