The Sun Rising – John Donne – Comments

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 of 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 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.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.
               She's all states, and all princes, I,
               Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor'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 warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.
John Donne (1572 - 1631)

This is a love poem. The sun has intruded into the bedroom of the lover. And the lover engages in a witty rebuke to the personified sun.

S1 – A question – must lovers heed the seasons, is love independent – Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?  And a complaint – go disturb others who need sentence. But the answer is emphatically given in the last lines – ‘Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime’. And the idea that love is independent of time. And we exist in the rags of time – hours, days, months.

S2 – the sun is so strong but it only takes a wink to deny light. The lover does not want to do this for it will detract from seeing the beauty of his partner. And then the suggestion that the sun might be blinded by the beauty of his lover. And as for all those kings of yesterday, seek them not they are here with me, metaphorically speaking.

S3 – And the hyperbole continues emphasising the now … the room, the bedroom, the love scene … here is all important in this contracted space. Shine here to us and thou art everywhere. The whole world is here to be seen in total focus on the now.

But the sun is everywhere it penetrates all it is such an amazing star. For the sun is intricately involved in all aspects of the solar system. John Donne would not have known that neutrinos come straight through the earth at nearly the speed of light, all the time, day and night, in enormous numbers. About 100 trillion neutrinos pass through our bodies every second. Perhaps love too is similarly involved.

Does the sun dictate all life – and does love dictate everything too? And love is of far more importance transcending the universe. And is love internal in some way to all life?

And is the ‘spiritual son’ equally involved in all aspects of life whether recognised or not? Well, that is another matter – excuse the pun.

John Donne is known as the king of the metaphysical. John Donne on Wikipedia.

I did not realise that I had covered this poem in 2019

The Sunne Rising – John Donne

The Sunne 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 of 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 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.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

She’s all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor’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 warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

John Donne (1572 – 1631)

Three ten line stanza with rhyming scheme ‘abbacdcdee’. The sun personified she is indeed quiet ‘unruly’ highly emotional in her flaring and of course very old and busy. I do like that word ‘wink’ in the second stanza our lifespan so infinitesimal in comparison.

Well the Solar System does sort of control life or the way life is lived. We do have to operate on a time and season basis. But love is beyond such bounds quite independent and outside such realms of the artificial breakup so eloquently defined as ‘the rags of time’. Love is a timeless entity.

Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clim
Hours, days, months, which are the rags of time

The eyes of the sun are blind compared to the personal eyes of love which retains history. Not like the inanimate sun who knows nothing of yesterday.

If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me, …

The world is so much more. The the sun creates life, and bountiful meaning to life. And the sun has a duty to give warmth and life to humanity. It is the centre of everything.

Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

From memory on the nature of the sun millions of sub-atomic particles actually pass through our thumb nail every second!

And from a spiritual Christian perspective there is a lot of similarity between sun and son; and John Donne being the master of the metaphysical.