Sight and Blindness Imagery
Most of the sight imagery is in the second stanza, when Donne talks about the sun’s light beams, “reverend and strong.” But Donne argues that for all their strength, they can be put out if he simply closes his eyes. Obviously, this can’t be literal; the sun is still there. But popular philosophers, including Rene Descartes, were considering the subjective nature of realityâ€”do we make things exist simply by seeing them? Does the sun exist if we can’t see it, or is it all in our minds? (Hint: it’s not.)
Line 13: Donne claims that he could “shut out” the sun’s rays by closing his eyes.
There’s also the “awwww-how-cute” line when Donne claims first that he refuses to shut his eyes because he couldn’t stand not to look at his beloved even for a millisecond. He also claims that his love’s radiant beauty could blind the sun. Does the sun have eyes? Can it be blinded? We’ll get back to you on that.
Line 14: Donne just can’t close his eyes because he would “lose her sight so long”
Line 15: The speaker demands that the sun look at his lady, “if her eyes have not blinded” the sun
The Great Chain of Being
One medieval idea that carries over into Renaissance art and literature is the Great Chain of Being, the notion that every living thing has a specific rank in the divine scheme of things. Think of it as an early take on the class system. Donne makes references to people and things all up and down the chain of being: schoolboys, apprentices, hunters, royalty, farmers, even ants. He is arguing that the whole scope of humanity is subject to the sun’s power, but (you guessed it) he and his lover are exempt. Their love breaks free of that chain.
Lines 5-8: This is a fairly classic Donne list of different classes of people. The next lines then claim that love (namely, his love) transcends all of them.
The 17th century was a pretty interesting time to be alive. They didn’t have all this newfangled technology. They didn’t have everything all mapped out. They were discovering and figuring things out all the time. This poem (like a lot of Donne’s poems) draws on the popular scientific beliefs and discoveries, some of which were brand new, and some of which were holdovers from medieval times.
Line 17: The “Indias of spice and mine” refer to India (in Asia) and the newly established West Indies. New and exotic products were being brought in daily on ships from these strange worlds, which made the world more accessible to folks like Donne, but also opened up new doors of discovery, making the world seem ever larger.
Line 30: The bed becomes like the earth and the boundaries of the room form the sun’s new and limited sphere in the poet’s imagination
CRITICAL ANALYSIS 1
The Sun Rising is one of Donne’s popular and widely read and enjoyed love poems. It is love poem of an unusual kind. In this poem, composed in the form of a dramatic monologue, the poet lover reprimands the Sun and calls it names for disturbing love making.
Overtly addressed to the Sun, the poem is intended to bears for her. The poet-lover’s reprimand of the Sun, through a very clever rhetorical manouvre, ultimately ends in locking the Sun in the bedroom of the lover. The busy old fool, the unruly Sun, the saucy pedantic wretch is ultimately persuaded to shine on the lovers and serve them.
The poem has a well-knit, logical structure. It has symmetry of design. It progresses with the progress and witty shifts in the poet as thought. He addresses the Sun as “busy old fool”. He calls it unruly because, by peeping in to the bedroom through windows and curtains it disturbs the lovers.
The poet-lover tells the Sun that lovers’ seasons do not run to its motions. He advises the Sun to go and do such routine and dull jobs like chiding late-schoolboys and apprentices, waking up court-huntsmen and peasants. The expression “country ants” is imagery. It refers to the peasants, drudging like ants. They get up with the Sun and toil the whole day, till sunset. Love knows no season, no climates. It is not affected by time. In this section of the poem we come across colloquial expression like “busy old fool” and “saucy pedantic wretch”. Such terms of contempt fitfully set the tone of the poem which is one of annoyance.
The poet’s wit is apparent when he tells the Sun that he has no reason to think that his beams are “so reverend and strong”. The poet lover could eclipse and could the beams of the Sun with a wink. He does not do so because he does not wish to “loose her right so long.” The poet-lover knows that the Sun would go to the other half of the world and come to that place at this time tomorrow.
The Sun travels all over the world in twenty four hours. The poet-lover asks the Sun to go round the world, see all Kings, come back tomorrow and say if “both the Indias of spice and mine” be where it left them or “lie here with me”. The Indias of spice and mine imply both India in the east and the Red Indians in the west. The progress in navigation, the discovery of America, Walter Raleigh’s going round the world etc. during the Renaissance widened the horizon of man’s knowledge about the universe. Donne profited from this new knowledge.
In his poems we come across allusions to the latest developments in knowledge utilised to express his thoughts. The Sun, the poet says, will find all Kings of the world “All in one bed lay”. He tells the Sun that he is all Kings.
The same imagery continues in the concluding verse of the poem where “She’s all States, and all Princes I”. The poet’s mistress is all States. She is the world. The poet-lover is all Princes. He is the lord of the world. Princes only play them. Compared to their love all “honour’s mimick”, all wealth alchemy.” In the latter imagery there is an allusion to the medieval belief in the powers of magic etc.
The Sun can shine over only half of the world at one time. The lovers, on the contrary, are the world. It logically follows that the Sun is “half as happy as we”. When we come to this part of the poem we notice a shift in the mood of the poet.
The Sun is no longer the “busy old fool” or the “saucy pedantic wretch” of the first verse or stanza. It is now an aged fellow in need of ease. The poet-lover offers it the needed ease. The Sun’s duty is warming the world. It warms only half of the world at a time. By shining on the lover’s bed it can shine over the whole world at a time. Let the bed be the centre and the walls the sphere of the Sun with this arrangement the aged Sun can do its duties with ease.
The last part of the poem reveals the poet’s wit, his mastery over the use of apt imagery and conceits. At the beginning of the poem the poet asked the Sun to go away from there. Now he invites the Sun to go round their bed and shine on them.
- “The Sun Rising” by John Donne… Overall Summary Notes for Waec/neco Literature Exams(114) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)
- Detailed Revision Notes (stanza 3) of “The Sun Rising” by John Donne for Waec/neco Literature Exams(117) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)
- Detailed Revision Notes (stanza 1) of “The Sun Rising” by John Donne for Waec/neco Literature Exams(115) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)
- 84 Waec/neco Literature Past Questions on African and Non-african Drama and Poetry (generalized) (56) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)
- Waec Examiner Provides Revision Questions and Answers on Other African Poems for Coming Waec/neco Literature Exams (107) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)
- Poem Analysis of “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes for Waec/neco Literature Exams (108) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)
- Daffodils…summary,analysis and Sample Waec/neco Question and Answer (100) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)
- Waec Examiner Provides Revision Questions and Answers on “The Fence” by Lenrie Peters for Coming Literature Exams (105) (lagosbooksclub.wordpress.com)