Sunday, November 7, 2010

THE SUN RISING by John Donne

“The Sun Rising” is a typical poem by Donne, characterised by his usual vigour, sprightliness and freshness. It is a “saucy, muscular poem”. It expresses a lover’s vexation against sun-rising. The dawn is regarded as an impertinence which comes to disturb the lovers. The poet is delightfully out-spoken and defiant. He ridicules the sun as a “saucy pedantic wretch” and calls in question his right to peep through windows and curtains of a lover’s bed-room. There is defiance, contempt, perfect love and the deftly moving shuttle of metaphysical conceit. The supremacy of love which transcends both time and space, for it knows ‘no season and no climes’ is established with a daring jugglery of words.

This poem, like most of Donne’s love-poems is inspired by the poet’s love for his wife, Anne Moore. Donne’s love amounts to a passion. It is a perfect synthesis of the spiritual and physical love. There are brilliant metaphysical conceits in the second and third stanzas of the poem. For example, the beloved is supposed to be combining in herself all the fragrance and the gold of East and West Indies:
Look and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th’
Indias of spice and mine,
Be where though left’st them, or lie here with me.
The lover and the beloved are compared to all the states and all the princes of the world, rolled into one:
She’s all slates, and all princes I;
Nothing else is;
The lover’s bed room is considered to be the epitome of the whole world.
Shine here on us and thou art everywhere.
The poem is singularly free from the conventional and sentimental clap trap of love that was such a marked feature of Elizabethan love poetry. Donne’s beloved rises superior to all the Elizabethan sweet-hearts in-as-much as she is an exalted being—she is all the states of the world rolied into one, she combines in herself all the fragrance of spices and all the gold of rich mine.
A successful love poem
The Sun Rising is one of the most successful love—poems of Donne. As a poet of love he can be an extreme realist and deals with the physical side of it as also its spiritual side. Here he treats of a situation very significant for wedded lovers, but unusual in the poetry of love—two lovers in bed who refuse to get up when the sun shines on them in the morning.
Language—bold and extravagant
The poet chides the sun in language which for its boldness is unmatched in lyric poetry. The sun is a busy, and old fool; it is a saucy, and pedantic wretch. It can go and chide late school boys and apprentices, but has no jurisdiction over the poet and his wife. Lover’s seasons do not run to the motions of the sun:
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time
Full or metaphysical conceits
In expressing his contempt for the sun, the poet displays all his learning and metaphysical wit, and extravagant conceit and employed in glorifying his beloved. Recent geographical discoveries supply him with the image of “both the Indias of spice and mine” (India and the West Indies and America). His wife is to him these two Indias in one.
Extravagant fancy
The poet’s extravagant fancy discovers that he and his beloved in their secure possession of each other, are like all states and princes to each other. Princes only imitate them. She is all the world contracted into one feminine form and hence, by shining on her, the sun performs his duty towards the whole earth. Following up this conceit, the poet says that if the sun shines on him and his wife, it is, in a sense, shining everywhere—the bed becomes its centre and the walls of the bed room its sphere.
The poem is remarkable for its boldness of thought and originality of execution. The way in which the sun is made to appear as an unwelcome guest and the way in which he is finally allowed to stay in the bedroom of the lovers, are the most striking examples of Donne’s poetic inventiveness and ingenuity. The poet after establishing the supremacy of love, permits the sun, (in a very patronising manner, of course) to stay in his bed-room.
In this poem, the lover chides (rebukes) sun-rising because it disturbs the lovers. Love is above the sense of time. It knows no hours, days or months. The sun should not call on lovers; it should call on school apprentices, courtiers and country ants. Love knows no season nor clime. The whole world has contracted into the lover’s bed-room. Thus the sun need not go round the earth, it should only pay a visit to the lover’s bedroom and it would meet the whole world there.

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