The Sun Rising

The Sun Rising

by John Donne

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.

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