The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Sun Rising” is a lyric poem divided into three stanzas of ten lines each. Each stanza is further divided into two quatrains, respectively rhyming abba and cddc, and a couplet rhyming ee. The title, “The Sun Rising,” suggests an aubade, a song sung by lovers upon parting at morning; John Donne, however, renders a parody of the tender love songs written for such occasions. Parting from his beloved is the last thing the speaker of the poem desires to do. Moreover, the title allows for a physical image of the sun actually getting out of bed, an action that the lovers refuse to follow.

In this poem, Donne uses both personification—figurative use of language in which human qualities or feelings are attributed to nonhuman things—and apostrophe—a figure of speech in which a personification is addressed—when the poem’s speaker addresses the sun in all three stanzas. The persona or speaker in this poem is the lover who argues with the sun about the power of love to exist outside time and space.

In the first stanza, the speaker irreverently rebukes the sun, whom he calls a “busy old fool” and a “saucy pedantic wretch” for daring to disturb the lovers as if they were mere “schoolboys” or “sour prentices.” Donne’s allusion to King James I’s passion for early hunting outings (line 7) is often used for dating this poem after 1603, the date of James’s ascension to the throne of England....

(The entire section is 510 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The power of Donne’s poetic voice is characterized by his dramatic monologue and intensified by his use of the present tense. His approach in “The Sun Rising” illustrates the immediacy that such a voice creates. His speaker (the lover) and his addressee (the sun) are strongly characterized; the present tense allows the reader to experience a progressive development of the speaker’s claims and arguments. The inclusion of such mundane things as curtains and beds and the juxtaposition of schoolboys and kings create a strong scene.

The claims that Donne makes for the exclusiveness of love in “The Sun Rising” are created by his expert manipulation of hyperbole, the trope of exaggeration. In the first stanza, the lover elevates mutual love to dimensions beyond the confines of time, while simultaneously dismissing hours, days, even seasons, as mere “rags of time.” In the second stanza, the hyperbolic assertions gather force as the lover piles his exaggerations in quick succession; the mistress’ eyes are more brilliant than the sun’s beams; both Indias—one is not enough—are contained in her; and the bed sleeps all the world’s kings and their wealth.

Having reached the near pinnacle of hyperbolic manipulation in the second stanza, Donne makes his most exuberant but logical leap in hyperbolic argument in the third stanza: “Nothing else is.” This affirmation of love independent of the world obliterates anything and anybody...

(The entire section is 573 words.)