The Sun Rising

The Sun Rising

by John Donne

The Sun Rising Summary

In Short

  • Lying in bed with his lover (Anne Donne) John Donne rebukes the rising sun and calls him ‘busy old fool’.
  • He complains against the rising sun for shining on them and disturbing them (the poet and his lover) 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 in “The Sun Rising” represents their bedroom as a microcosm of the universe.
  • Donne also opines that love is a self-sufficient force. It does not depend on the change of seasons or climates.
  • The poet-lover says 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 during the short duration of a wink.
  • The poet also mentions that their bed-chamber is the combination of the whole world, and the poet-lover and his beloved represent all the kings and queens.
  • The poet even claims that the aged sun will be happy that the entire world has been contracted into them (the poet lover and his mistress) and his duty of warming the whole world has now become easier. The sun can now warm their bedroom and then the whole world will be warmed.
  • The poet even asks the sun to revolve around their bed, making the walls of their bedroom his sphere.

The Sun Rising: Explanation

First Stanza

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.

Second Stanza

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.

Third Stanza

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.

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