What are some of the satirical aspects of John Donne's poem "The Sun Rising"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To satirize is to poke fun at or mock something. In this poem, the speaker mocks the power of the sun. This is similar, if not entirely the same, to Donne's speaker mocking of death in "Death Be Not Proud."

The lover jeers at the sun, calling it a "busy...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

To satirize is to poke fun at or mock something. In this poem, the speaker mocks the power of the sun. This is similar, if not entirely the same, to Donne's speaker mocking of death in "Death Be Not Proud."

The lover jeers at the sun, calling it a "busy old fool" and asking why it comes around to the lovers' chamber. He tells the sun to go "chide" (lecture) schoolboys or to call people to the hunt, but not to bother lovers.

The speaker also mocks the sun for thinking its rays are strong when his beloved has a more blinding light. The lover calls himself a king because of his beloved. He tells the sun it is not half as happy as he is.

But in addition to mocking the sun, the poem also implicitly mocks the grandiose, exaggerated claims of the lover and his delusions of grandeur in thinking himself greater in his love than kings, princes, or the sun itself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The primary focus of Donne's satire in this poem is the speaker himself, a new lover who has on rose-colored glasses and is in the honeymoon phase of a new relationship. This is made clear through the speaker's many hyperbolic claims. For example, in stanza two, he says:

If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
In other words, the speaker is telling the sun, "If my lover's beautiful eyes have not blinded you, look at India tomorrow and tell me if the world's riches are there or whether they lie here in my bed." This is clearly the language of someone that is newly in love and is so overwhelmed by his feelings of passion that he speaks only in exaggeration. After all, this is a man who has taken time out of his day to talk to the sun, which is not exactly something a normal person would do.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Donne’s poem “The Sun Rising” is satirical in a number of different respects. The poem opens, for instance, with explicitly satirical words, as the speaker calls the sun itself a “Busy old fool” (1). Immediately, then, a satirical tone is established, and this tone continues for much of the rest of the work, as when the speaker next condemns the sun by calling it a “saucy pedantic wretch” (5).

The speaker’s mockery then moves from the sun to various kinds of human beings, such as “Late schoolboys,” “sour prentices [that is, apprentices],” “court huntsmen,” and “country ants [that is, rural workers]” (6-8). First the sun is mocked, and then a wide social spectrum is satirized.

The speaker next satirizes “hours, days, [and] months,” which he lambastes as being the mere “rags of time” (10), but then he soon returns to satirizing the sun (11-18). He subsequently mocks “Princes” (23), honor (24), and “wealth” (24) before returning once more to satire of the sun (25-30).This poem, in other words, is a tour de force of satire, presenting an extremely self-confident speaker.

Is it possible, however, that Donne himself is mocking the very speaker he presents? Is it possible that the speaker is a bit too cocky, a bit too self-centered, a bit too complacent and self-involved? Are we meant to sympathize with this speaker, even in his mockery of honor (24), of all things? Is the speaker’s mockery merely good-natured teasing, which we are meant to laugh at and enjoy? Or is Donne, perhaps, offering some sly satire of the speaker himself? Is the mocker mocked?

For an excellent edition of this poem and others, see Theodore Redpath, ed., The Songs and Sonets of John Donne [sic], 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009).

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team