John Donne's "The Sun Rising" serves as a perfect example of the style of the metaphysical poets and poetry, written early in Donne's career as part of his romance oeuvre. In three 10-line verses with the rhyme scheme abbacdcdee, the poet uses figurative language (figure of speech) to personify the sun. In addition he incorporates one of his most often used themes, that an entire world may exist within a single organism, as in "The Flea," or that the union two lovers experience constitutes an entire universe. Because of the sun's omnipresence, Donne may utilize it to comment on the state of the entire world in discussing the relationship shared by the male speaker and his lover. Also typically of Donne's love poetry, the female love interest does not speak, yet remains quite obviously present during what could constitute a dramatic monologue on stage.
The speaker begins by scolding the morning sun for intruding into a happy bedroom after a night of love-making in the famous opening apostrophe,
Busy old fool, unruly sun, Why dost thou thus
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
The fact that the sun must enter the bedroom by intruding through barriers that human sight cannot, the curtained windows, establishes it as the only force brazen enough to invade. Donne uses irony to make fun of lovers who believe that the sun sets and rises on their emotions; time should literally stand still in honor of their emotion, leaving them to determine their own heavenly motions and seasons. The speaker makes this plain in the next line, "Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?" Lovers should not have to cease their lovemaking in the light. In lines delightfully laced with humorous reproach, the speaker suggests other tasks for the sun as he continues,
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide Late schoolboys, and sour prentices, Go tell court-huntsmen, that the King will ride, Call country ants to harvest offices.
The sun may pursue traditional duties of moving others, but not the speaker and his love. As the speaker explains, "Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime, / Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time." Donne's use of a serious tone emphasizes the boundless nature of love, which cannot be measured in the units the sun is used to measure. The speaker's awareness of his own folly contributes to the reader's pleasure in knowing the address is for the benefit of the lover only. Donne establishes a natural rhythm for a voice that rises and falls with emotion by varying the meter stresses in the lines. While in each stanza lines 1, 5, and 6 are iambic tetrameter, line 2 is reduced to dimeter, and all other lines are in pentameter.
The second stanza turns on the boast by the speaker that through his emotion he can outshine the sun's beams. He brags:
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.
As with most braggarts, he must offer an excuse not to complete the impossible deed he has promised; he will not eclipse the sun with his wink, because he does not want to close even one eye and miss an opportunity to gaze at the beauty of his love. He further declares that the brightness in his lover's eyes might blind the sun, source of all light. If the sun has not yet experienced that blindness, the speaker bids him to
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me, Whether both th'Indias of spice and mine Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
He equates his lover's value with that of all the spices that England had to import from India. The speaker increases his claim by noting that "those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday, / And thou shalt hear, all here in one bed lay." Donne insists that love creates its own universe and yields more than all of the material wealth and royal power of the world to those who experience it. The wordplay with exact rhyme in the homonyms hear and here again emphasizes that the lover possesses an entire universe, equivalent to all the sun hears in his omniscient position, literally in the bed.
The braggadocio reaches crescendo in the third stanza, as he claims that his love "is all states, and all princes I, / Nothing else is." Not only do the two lovers represent all that is worthy, nothing else even exists outside their own universe. "Princes" simply masquerade as the lovers, and compared to them "All honour's mimic; all wealth alchemy." Finally, the speaker continues his apostrophe, "Thou sun art half as happy as we." Donne uses alliteration to his advantage, emphasizing half and happy. He could have dismissed the sun as enjoying no happiness; instead he suggests that even the sun's happiness, in his position as supreme ruler of all hemispheres, is only half that of the lovers. Donne's next line emphasizes the ability of two people to represent their own world:
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.
The ultimate claim that the lovers not only are as important as the rest of the world, but are that world, allows the speaker to ease into an acceptance of the sun's presence. Thus he gracefully avoids failure in his order to the sun to depart by graciously accepting its warmth. Donne's concluding couplet acts as a blessing, not only to the poem's lovers, but to all those who enjoy such a pure emotion: "Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; / This bed thy center is, these walls, they sphere." By retaining attention to the bed throughout the poem, Donne makes clear that sex remains an integral part of love.
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