An Analysis of Donne’s “The Sun Rising”

March 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

John Donne addresses his poem “The Sun Rising” to the sun, but the theme of the poem is the joy of true love. The poet derives infinite joy by loving and by being loved. The poet’s wit and irony are here directed against the sun for trying to interfere in the lover’s happiness.In the opening stanza, the sun is addressed as “busy, old fool” flashing his light into the lover’s bedroom, perhaps with the intention of waking up and parting them. It is unfair on his part to expect the lovers to act according to his movements. He may go about his trivial errands like pulling up ‘late school boys’ and lazy apprentices who hate to work. The country ants and courtiers may knuckle under his authority but not so the lovers. Love is above time, which is regulated by the sun. For lovers, seasons, hours and days have no meaning.The argument against the sun is continued. The sun need not think that his light is dazzling and worthy of respect. If the poet closes his eyes, the sunlight is rendered dark. But he does not like to lose sight of his beloved by closing his eyes. In hyperbolic language he asks the sun if the eyes of his beloved are not brighter than sunlight. Gazing into her eyes, the sun may feel dazzled. Roaming over the whole world, the sun can inform him on the next day whether the lady is not worth more than the East and the West Indies. The poet’s lady comprises in her all the kingdoms. The poet, in the possession of his mistress is thus richer than any king on earth. The lovers in Donne’s poem are the archetypal ideas or the soul of the world, of which the states and princes are imperfect perfections. The poet declares that there is nothing else besides him and his beloved which implies that they have become one, and together they constitute the soul of the world. The lovers can look down upon the world from the heights of perfection they have reached through the realization of their true love. The pomp and majesty of a king is then a mere imitation of the glory attained by lovers. Compared to their spiritual wealth, all material wealth seems counterfeit. The sun, being old and run down, will welcome the contraction of the world. Now that the lovers are the world, the can fulfill his duty of lighting and warming the world by merely shining on them. By circling round a single room, he can circle round the whole world.The tone of the poem is gently ironic besides being playful and colloquial. Love is shown as having triumphed over time and space. The poet’s sense of completeness in the possession of his mistress is an illusion. The lovers mock at space and time as illusions without realizing that they themselves are under an illusion. Those who accept the reality of time and space may be poor deluded mortals, but the lovers who pride themselves I having achieved a sense of completeness are by no means better. Professor A. Stein points out, “What the lovers represent majestically is not a distillation of all that is precious and delightful on earth to the imagination of a lover, who does not feel himself quite on earth…. The lovers possess in their bed what does not seem to incommode them as idea and image, a composite token of the material possession of that gross external world.”The lovers look out on other illusions from an unexamined illusion. The poet, with his beloved by his side, feels infinite bliss, which to him appears perfect. He tries to force on us the conviction that the kings and their kingdoms are all with the lovers. The lady comprises in her all the kingdoms, and the poet comprises in him all the kings. A king with all his indisputable power and majesty can only imitate the bliss of the lovers. Even the sun is presented as being glad to move round the lovers who represent the whole world. The sun’s duty of giving light and warmth to the world is thus lightened.All told, one is left wondering if Donne is not mocking at himself and his lady, living in an illusory world of unadulterated joy. Donne is here mocking at the conventional conceits found in the love poems of his time, or he is implying that the lovers represent the soul of the world or the Platonic archetype of the world.

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