The Sun Rising by John Donne - Summary & Analysis

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The Sun Rising

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys, and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen, that the King will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags or time.

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:
If her eyes have no blinded thine,
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.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

She's is all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honour's mimic; all wealth alchemy.
Thou sun art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To wam the world, that's done in warming us
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.

Busy old fool, unruly sun, Why dost thou thus, Through windows, and through curtains call on us ? Must to thy motions lovers seasons run ? Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide Late school-boys, and sour prentices, Go tell court-huntsmen, that the King will ride, Call country ants to harvest offices; Love, all alike no season knows, nor clime, Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags or time.
The Sun Rising

Summary and Analysis


      "The Sun Rising" is a typical poem by John Donne, characterized by - his usual vigor, 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 outspoken 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 bedroom. 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.


      Stanza 1. Busy, foolish and rebellious sun, why do you send your morning rays through windows, and curtains to the bed of lovers? Do you think that lovers should adjust their seasons according to your movement? You impudent, vain wretch, (you have no business with the lovers). Go and rebuke school boys who are late for their school, and peevish apprentices or go and inform the courtier-hunters that the king would go for hunting this morning or tell the ants in the country to move out and collect grains in the fields. Love, being the same at all times, is above seasons and climates. It knows no hour, days and months which are just particles of eternity.

      Stanza 2. Why should you regard your rays as so strong and sacred? I can extinguish the brilliance of your rays if I like by just winking at you, but I do not want to wink, because I don't want to lose sight of my beloved even for the short duration of a wink. If the brilliance of my beloved's eyes has not dazzled you, call again tomorrow and tell me whether both the East and the West Indies, which are noted for their spices and mines respectively, be there where you left them. You will be surprised to find both these Indies in my bed chamber, (because my Sweet-heart is both spice and gold mine to me). If you want to see tomorrow all the kings whom you saw you would find them lying in our bed (because I and my sweetheart represent all the kings of the world).

      Stanza 3. My sweetheart is all the states of the world rolled into one and I am all the princes of the world rolled into one. There are no states and princes except those ones mentioned by me. Princes of the world only play our roles when they act like princes. Compared to our state all honor is nothing but imitation, and all wealth only a pursuit to transmute base metals into gold. Even, you, O sun, are only half as happy, as we two lovers are, because in our case all the beauties and joys of the world have been contracted into one bed-room. Your old age requires you to take rest. Since it is your duty to warm the world, you can warm it by warming us (because the whole world is represented by us). Just shine on us too, and it would be as if you were shining over the whole world. Our bed would be just a center and the walls of our bed-chamber the sphere within which you will revolve.

Development of Thought:

      The Sun Rising is a 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 states, and all princes I;
Of 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 The Sun Rising 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 rolled into one, she combines in herself all the fragrance of spices and all the gold of rich mine.

Critical Analysis

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 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 of Metaphysical Conceits:

      Metaphysical Conceits in Good Morrow expressing his contempt for the sun, the poet displays all his learning and metaphysical wit, and extravagant conceits are 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 center and the walls of the bedroom its sphere.


      The poem The Sun Rising 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 patronizing 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 county ants. Love knows no season nor clime. The whole world has contracted into the lover's bedroom. 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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