The Sunne Rising

John Donne’s “The Sunne Rising” is a short poem in which the speaker seems to reverse the reverence typically displayed for the sun, instead chastising and belittling it. The poem progresses from lobbing bitter insults in the first stanza to elevating the speaker and his beloved in the second; the third combines and builds upon the first two.

The speaker first addresses the sun as a “Busy old fool” and a “pedantic wretch,” insults that ring like a reluctant youth pleading with his mother for more time to sleep. The rhetorical questions situated between these two insults, though, seem to betray some measure of respect: “Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?”

As the poem progresses, the speaker seems to decide that the answer is no – that both he and his beloved are in fact greater than the sun. “I could eclipse and cloud [the sun’s beams] with a wink,” the speaker declares. He continues the disparagement by telling the sun that all of the Indians and kings that it has seen can be summoned right here, to this bed.

Perhaps the speaker is referring to the power of dreams when he claims that “’All here in one bed lay,’” but moving into the third stanza it appears that he really intends to exalt himself and his lover, their bed and their room, to the center of the universe. “She’s all states, and all princes I; / Nothing else is,” he continues to apostrophize, throwing now his most authentic sounding insult: “Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we.” He reassures the surely shaken Sun by telling it that its duty to warm the world can be fulfilled by simply warming this room: “Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; / This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.” Thus the poem has reached its crescendo, evolving from a dream-clouded and angry entreaty to a lucid and confident claim; nothing else, not even the Sun, is of any importance when compared to the world he and his beloved have built for themselves.

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