Discuss the features of metaphysical poetry in "The Sun Rising"?  

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herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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If we go with the traditional characteristics of metaphysical poetry, certainly John Donne fits the bill with The Sun Rising.

First, metaphysical poetry often presents an argument against an unseen element, or an element that cannot answer back. In this case, the speaker is fighting the Sun.

Second, the use of hyperbolic description, simile, and language like Donne uses when describing the intensity of his love, is also traditional of metaphysical poetry.

Third, the intensity of deep thought, philosophy, and sensibility are more evident in this type of poetry than in traditional poetry, and Donne again hits right on with his philosophical comment on how the sun should "be somewhere else when is needed". That is a sign of existentialism, and this is also very typical of metaphysical poetry.

Most importantly: Symbolism is the biggest and most important characteristic. In this case, the Sun symbolized passion, grandeur, energy, love, passion, intensity, gravity. This, as well as in other poems like Death be Not Proud, and The Flea, Donne indeed places strong value in symbols and representation in verse.

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

In the poem “The Sun Rising” by English poet John Donne, the features of metaphysical poetry are quite apparent. First, Donne is engaging in an intellectual but conjectural conversation with the Sun. The Sun cannot respond to him and does not acknowledge any kind of communication with a human being. This is what is to be expected, hence this one-way conversation of the heart and mind between a living being and a celestial object. This is typical of metaphysical poetry, pondering things beyond humankind’s reach, things that seem so magnificent and awe-inspiring.

Another feature of metaphysical poems is the religious aspect to many of them. An example of this is John Donne’s poem “A Hymn to God the Father.” There is an allusion to religion and holiness in “The Sun Rising” with the line “Thy beams so reverend, and strong.” Donne is setting the sun’s rays on a higher plane here, calling them venerated in a sense. Metaphysical poetry often tackles the great questions in life through the avenue of religion and religious thought. It is common for metaphysical poetry to contemplate the supernatural.

Another feature of metaphysical poetry is philosophical discussions of grand themes, such as Love, Death, War, and so on. In “The Sun Rising,” Love is brought to the forefront. Donne asks “Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?” He is saying that the sun controls time and seasons and that we follow its dictates in this. The sun marks time as we live and love on this earth.

Another feature of metaphysical poetry is that it contemplates man’s place in the universe. It often makes us see ourselves as something less than what we think we are - our lives superimposed over the vast and limitless expanse of space. It causes us to ask questions of why we are here and what our ultimate destiny is. There is an abstract, ethereal or otherworldly quality to metaphysical poetry.

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