How does Donne use repetition, personification, or irony in "The Sun Rising"?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Repetition--Donne's use of repetition is more subtle than many poets' use of the device.  Instead of relying on a refrain, Donne repeats structure and ideas more than mere sounds or words.  For example, each stanza is not only ten lines long but also includes short opening lines and then moves to the third and fourth lines (of each stanza) containing ten syllables each.  He repeats the pattern of ten syllables in the ninth and tenth lines of every stanza. If one looks at the lines that have repetitive structure, they are similar in the sense that they are the speaker's perception of what the sun truly means to mankind.

2.  Personification--Donne relies strongly on his personification of the sun. He first portrays the sun as an old, fickle woman.

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 (lines 1-6).

Donne views the sun as someone who enjoys disturbing others' pleasure, whether it is lovers who must break away from the romance of the night or boys who are up to no good under the cover of darkness. The poet continues to use personification to illustrate that the sun is an old woman who wants attention but who really has no true power over man. In fact, the speaker claims that he can ignore the "old woman" (the sun) simply by closing his eyes if he so chooses (Stanza 2).

3.  The irony is connected to the truth presented in Stanza 3.

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 warm the world, that's done in warming us (lines 25-28).

The irony lies in the idea that the sun should be viewed by humans as a power to be respected, but the speaker still feels that he can command her or even try to "ease" her work in her old age.

afarpajian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In one of Donne's most famous lines, at the very start of "The Sun Rising," the speaker personifies the sun as a "busy old fool" because its appearance signals the end of night and of his time in bed with his beloved. His use of repetition consists not so much in repeating specific words or sounds as it does in his insistent "questioning" of the sun, hammering away at it with a kind of good-natured anger about the interruption of his love-making.

The irony of this poem is rooted in the basic contradiction between the speaker's "anger" at the sun, and his simultaneous acknowledgement that the sun illuminates his beloved. And his tone, despite this anger, is joyful. Of the sun's rays, he says "I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink, / But that I would not lose her sight so long." The personification of the sun is extended to the claim that the sun's "happiness" is diminished because the whole world has been contracted to this bedroom. This is typical of the extravagant conceits used by Donne and the other metaphysical poets. And in the final stanza, the ultimate irony is that the speaker appears to "blame" the sun for intruding upon him and his woman, yet celebrates the sunlight because the splendor of this couple in love is so great that it is projected outward to the rest of the world: " . . . and since thy duties be to warm the world, / That's done in warming us."