John Donne - The Sun Rising

  • Knowledge of biographical context will heighten understanding of the poem, ‘The Sun Rising.’
  • In 1598, Donne was appointed private secretary to Thomas Egerton, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England.
  • He became a Member of Parliament in 1601, as MP for Brackley, and sat in Queen Elizabeth’s last parliament.
  • He was expected to embark on a promising political career. However, in 1601, Donne married Egerton’s seventeenyear-old niece, Anne More.
  • Her father, George More, Lieutenant of the Tower, condemned the marriage. This led to Donne’s imprisonment until the marriage was proven valid.
  • The reaction to the marriage ruined Donne’s career and thwarted his social ascent.
  • In ‘The Sun Rising,’ Donne attempts to guard “lovers’ seasons.”
  • Although, the speaker does not address a human critic – he presents a direct address to the sun - it is clear that the poem is born of personal frustration and that the poet feels impelled to express a persuasive defence of love. 
  • Donne elevates romantic love in ‘The Sun Rising’; however his immediate attention is wrested from the female lover due to the sun’s intrusion.
  • The poem is composed of three ten-line stanzas.
  • The first stanza of the poem contains the ill-tempered speaker’s virulent assault on the sun.
  • The conceit is embedded in the poem: Donne exploits derisive adjectives to extend personification, attacking the sun’s attempts to interfere in the lovers’ pursuit of pleasure: “Busy old fool, unruly sun.”
  • The poet varies line lengths and meter – iambic tetrameter in line 1, 5 and 6 of each stanza, dimeter in line 2 and iambic pentameter in lines 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10 - and frames the rhyme scheme (ABBACDCDEE) to reinforce the speaker’s powerful and exasperated tone of voice.
  • Donne establishes an intimate setting – the lovers’ bed –…


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