Poetry: The Sun Rising – John Donne

Post 171

While in university, I also read a lot of poetry for different classes. I’ve decided to add some of my personal favourites of that time to my blog as well. So from now on, I will also be reviewing some poetry from time to time. Shakespeare will naturally be following soon, but I wanted to start with the poem entitled “The Sun Rising” by John Donne.:

The Sun Rising
John Donne (1633)

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

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;
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.

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.
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 center is, these walls, thy sphere.

John Donne was one of the major metaphysical poets in England during his lifetime. He wrote realistically and sensually: sonnets, love poetry, religious poems, Latin translations, and much more. He’s known for his inventive use of metaphors in his love poetry which was written over four hundred years ago.

“The Sun Rising” is one of Donne’s most successful metaphysical love poems. It consists of three regular stanzas, each ten lines long. Lines 1, 5 and 6 are always in iambic tetrameter, line 2 is in dimeter and lines 3, 4, 7-10 are in pentameter. The rhyming scheme is always the same as well: ABBACDCDEE.

The person speaking in this poem is lying in bed with his lover early in the morning. The sun wakes him and he is angry at the sun because love is not subject to season or time. He tells the sun to leave them alone and go bother others. He says that all the treasures, countries and kings the sun sees, are currently lying in his bed because his lover is such a treasure. Therefore, the sun only needs to shine on them to shine on the entire world.

It’s clear that the speaker is aware that what he is saying is foolish. He is only using this kind of language to please his lover. He wants to make it clear that his lover is everything to him and that the sun is disturbing their bliss. Like someone who is awoken by the sun and doesn’t want its shine to wake them up fully, to take them away from the land of dreams, the speaker wants to shut the sun out.

So what do you think? Do you like this poem

Happy reading,

Loes M

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