The Sun Rising

The Sun Rising

by John Donne

The Sun Rising Summary

In Short

  • Lying in bed with his lover, the speaker rebukes the rising sun for shining on them and disturbing them early in the morning through the windows and the curtains. The sun is warned not to think that the daily routine of the lovers should be regulated by him (the sun).
  • The poet-lover claims that he is able to obscure the light of the sun simply by closing his eyes for a moment. But, he won’t do that because he does not want to lose the sight of his mistress even for the short duration of a wink.
  • The next moment, the speaker suggests that their bed-chamber represent the entire world, and he and his beloved represent all the kings and queens. So, the sun can now warm their bedroom and then the whole world will be warmed.

The Sun Rising: Explanation

Stanza – 1

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?

Donne begins the poem “The Sun Rising” personifying and describing the sun as a busy, lawless, foolish person. He scolds the sun and interrogates him why he sends his early morning rays into their bed room through the windows and curtains. The poet-lover and his mistress are disturbed by the sun when they are busy in love-making. He also asks the sun if he (the sun) thinks that the activities of the lovers depend on his motion. The poet informs the sun that their love is not subject to its time-table.

Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Here the sun is called an overactive wicked person. The comparison is implicit, so it’s an example of metaphor. The poet admonishes the sun to rather go and do some useful stuff. According to the poet, the sun should bother the late school boys and apprentices who are not hurrying to get to work. He should also tell the court’s hunter that the king has decided to go for a ride. Here the poet hints at king James I’s passion for horse-riding and early hunting. Donne also advises the sun to remind the farmers (country ants) to harvest the land. All those people (school-boys, apprentices, hunter, farmers etc.) and their such activities are subject to the fragments of time and thus might be governed by the sun.

But love knows no season or climate. It remains unchanged over time. The poet believes that love is beyond the fragments of time and thus beyond the control of the sun’s movement.

Stanza – 2

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;

The poet inquires the sun why it thinks its beams are strong. The poet lover claims that he can cover the sun simply by a wink of his eyes. But he will not do this because he doesn’t want to deprive himself of the sight of his lover even for a moment. The speaker’s ability to obscure the sun by the wink of his eyes is a hyperbolic (exaggerating) expression. Actually, the poet-lover focuses on the power of love which dominates over the sun.

If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

The poet asks the sun if his (the sun’s) eyes have not been blinded by his mistress’s eyes to tell him by tomorrow whether the treasures of both the Indias (the spices of the East India and the gold mines of the West Indies) are in the same place they occupied in the past. In his regular motion the sun will see all the things at their normal places. But the poet’s mistress’s brightness blinds the sun. As a result of it, now they are in the poet-lover’s bed room.

The poet even says if the sun asks about the kings he shined on yesterday he will learn they all lie now in the poet-lover’s bed. The poet here wants to say that all the beauty, happiness and wealth are combined together into his mistress.

Stanza – 3

She’s all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.

in the third stanza of the poem ” The Sun Rising” the poet says that his mistress represents all the states of all the kingdoms of the world and he represents all the kings of the world. There is nothing else apart from them and their love. All the kings and queens only play the role of them. They (the kings and queens) try to enjoy love, peace and happiness as the poet and his mistress enjoy. All the honour seems to be mimicry and all the wealth is worthless before their love and enjoyment. Here, the poet wants to say that nothing is more important than their love.

Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus.
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.

The poet says that the sun will be half happy with the poet-lover and his mistress to know that the entire world has been contracted into their bed. It is much easier for the old sun to do his duty. His duty is to warm and shine the whole world. According to the poet the whole world will be warmed and shined on if the sun warms and shines on the poet-lover’s bed. So, the poet curtly invites the sun to shine and warm their bed room. He even asks the sun to revolve around their bed as his centre and treat the walls of the room as his sphere.

Here the poet lover’s bed is compared to the centre of the sun and the walls of the bed room are compared to the sphere of the sun within which it revolves. It is an apt example of metaphor. Again, the poet uses an epigram where he says “though sun art half as happy as we”. This suggests that the earth is round and the sun shines only on half of the earth at a time. On the other hand, the lovers do share the two halves of love sphere in a single room.

The Sun Rising – A Critical Commentary

“The Sun Rising” is a thirty lines poem with three stanzas, published in 1633 by John Donne. Each stanza has ten lines. It is a lyrical poem. Every stanza of the poem has two quatrains. The quatrains are rhymed as ABBA and CDCD with a couplet EE.

The poem is an aubade (a poem greeting the dawn, often involving lovers reluctant to separate). It depicts a physical image of the sun. Getting out of the bed the sun is busy to perform his duty. But the lovers refuse to follow him. The poet argues with the sun about the power of love to exist beyond time and space.

The use of present tense allows the readers to experience a progressive development of the speaker’s claim.

“The Sun Rising” is Donne’s one of the most celebrated metaphysical poems. The term metaphysical applies to the sort of poetry that flourished in England in the first half of the 17th century under the leadership of John Donne. It is purely a native product. The metaphysical poets are always self-conscious and analytic. Because of their analytic habit they prefer to use words which call the mind into play rather than those that appeal to the sense. As a metaphysical poem it is intellectual, logical and argumentative. Be amused by the argumentative and logical pattern in the below lines –

Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.

The poem is an example of a typical love poem. It celebrates the joy of fulfilled love. The poet-lover and his mistress are so much busy with their love affairs that they warn the sun against disturbing them by peeping through the windows and curtains of their bed-room. The poet also tells the sun that love is not the subject of the sun’s time table. The poem is characterized by the dualism of body and soul. Here the poet presents the little world of the lovers as a microcosm of the outside world.

The poet shows that their love affair is so important that all the kings and queens merely copy them. The poet expresses the exclusiveness of his love by using hyperbole.

The poem is remarkable for Donne’s use of metaphysical conceits. Implicit comparisons are made between apparently dissimilar things or situations. The sun is compared to an old, busy, foolish man and a wicked person. The poet-lover is compared to all the princes and his mistress is compared to all the states and to the treasures of East and West Indies. This comparison is not only incongruous but also far-fetched. In the last line of the first stanza, we have a good example of conceit. Here time is compared to a pauper wearing tattered clothes.

John Donne uses images to enrich his poem, “The Sun Rising”. These images create a vibration in a cultivated mind of his time. In this poem “saucy pedantic wretch” images the poet-lover’s annoyance of the sun. “Late school boys”, “country ants” show commonly seen images.

The poem is famous for Donne’s originality. Here the poet wants to break the rules of nature. In this poem he characterizes the sun as an unwanted visitor. He shows the superiority of his love over the sun. Sometimes he orders the sun to go away, sometimes scolds him for disturbing them, and again invites him to warm their bed-room. Like other Petrarchan love poems, he does not represent his mistress as a goddess treading on earth. He represents his mistress as a human being. His mistress is capable of love.

The metrical pattern used in “The Sun Rising” is irregular. The first, fifth and sixth lines are metered in iambic tetrameter. Line two is in dimeter. Line three, four and seven through ten are in pentameter.

The Sun Rising – Themes

Love

The central theme of John Donne’s famous poetry “the Sun Rising” is love. Here the poet shows the exclusiveness of his love. He rebukes the sun for disturbing them as they are enjoying love. Here he says that his mistress is superior to and more powerful than the sun.  Even he orders the sun to go away.  He also thinks that his mistress as well as his love is more important than the commoners like the schoolboy, court hunter and farmer. So, he orders the sun to call and to bother them. To highlight the importance of their love he draws image where his mistress is compared to all the states of all the kingdoms of the whole world. Only for his love he can be able to eclipse the sun. So, love is the main theme of the poem.

Community

The poem is marked by the theme of community. It shows that we are the part of a community as well as nature. It is impossible to live individually. Here the poet wants to enjoy love alone with his lover but the sun pokes its nose into their love affair. The poem marks the poet’s annoyance for the sun’s interference. Though the poet warns the sun that their love is not the subject of the sun’s time table, he is unable to escape from the sun.

Disappointment

Though the main theme of the poem is love, it also points out the poet lover’s disappointment. The lover warns the sun to leave him alone so that he can spend more time with his mistress. He does not want to re-join the world with the sun rising. Actually, he wants to stop the motion of the sun. He does not want the night to end with the sun rising. But it is impossible. So, the poet lover’s disappointment is also reflected through the poem.

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