Analysis of ‘The Sun Rising’ by John Donne

The Sun Rising: John Donne who lived in the late 16th and early 17thcentury was a poet and cleric in the Church of England. His works include love poems, sonnets, religious poems, elegies, sermons, satires, epigrams, songs and Latin translations. The Sun Rising is a love poem which starts with a rebuke to the sun.

Lying in bed, the speaker scolds the sun for rising and disturbing him and his lover who were still resting in bed. He even asks the sun to do other things like bother late school boys and sour apprentices or tell the court-huntsmen that the king would soon be riding or ask the ants to do their harvesting. Then the speaker proudly states that he can block out the sun with just a wink of the eye, but if he closes his eye he will not be able to see his beloved. So he does not do it. Also asks another outrageous question, if he was not blinded by his beloved’s eyes. He asks the sun if both Indias and its spices are where he had left them. He goes a still further in his arrogance in love stating that all the countries and kings of the world are him and his lady love. All the other princes are just pretending to be one. He had shrunk the whole world to one room making it easier for the sun to shine just on that one room.  “To warm the world, that’s done in warming us”, warming them was equal to warming the whole world.

Since Donne was a cleric the title The Sun Rising might give a suggestion of resurrection of Christ; but is not at all so. It is a direct address to sun who is personified here. There are three stanzas, each with ten lines with a rhyme scheme of ABBACDCDEE. The length and meter of each line varies. Donne has used short lines to ask rhetorical question like“Why shouldst thou think?”  The imagery used is exciting. He addresses the sun as a person. He flits in out and of a small imagery to a huge one. He says his room is the world, thus bringing the world and its kings and people into the room. ‘Whether both th’ Indias’; with these words he makes the reader cross from east to west, India in the east and Caribbean in the west.

The theme of this poem is ‘love’ which makes one believe one is invincible. So much so the speaker calls sun a ‘busy fool’ and believes himself to be the center of the universe. Donne as the speaker talks about the intoxication of love

“Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,

Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.”

Right through the poem his tone is boastful and is even confident of his ridiculous logic. Donne is accused of being conceited but he has used the classic metaphysical conceit which is an unusual metaphor.  Not many poets have addressed the sun in this manner. The use of the words” Busy old fool, unruly Sun,” right at the beginning makes the reader sit up and read the rest of the poem and till the last line Donne has kept the tone of conceit intact; the highlights being ‘eclipsing’ the sun by shutting his eyes and by shrinking the world to the size of his room.