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The Joys of Sexual Love Represent the Only True Reality in John Donne's 'The Sun Rising'

John Donne’s ‘The Sun Rising’ is a poem depicting the all-consuming nature of true love, and how it renders all other things insignificant. The first stanza of the poem sets a passionate tone with phrases such as “saucy pedantic wretch”, which includes many different, powerful consonant sounds that spit out at the reader. Donne is ridiculing the “unruly Sun” for rising and interrupting him lying in bed with his lover. It may seem silly for him to be annoyed at something as normal as the Sun rising of a morning, but I believe Donne is using the Sun as a vessel for showing how deep and powerful his love for his partner is. The passion depicted in the first stanza is focused towards hatred of the Sun, whereas the rest of the poems shows a romantic passion directed towards his lover, and how his love overpowers any negative feelings he has of the Sun, “I could eclipse [the Sun] with a wink, but that I would not lose her sight so long”.

Not only does Donne express his disliking of the Sun, but he tries to belittle the power and necessity of the Sun. It is the thing that gives the Earth warmth; it keeps us alive. But to Donne, all he needs is his lover to keep him warm, give him life, and a purpose. Together they are as powerful as the “kings whom thou saw’st yesterday”. I find this line to be important, as it shows the Sun merely as an observer of life on Earth, while Donne and his partner are living it, they are the kings that the Sun can only see, not become. Adding to this idea of the Sun’s power being less than one would think, Donne says that the Sun “art half as happy as we”, again presenting the Sun as a miserable being that is inferior to the human race, as it cannot experience life or therefore, love. Donne is making out the Sun to be this way as it highlights the power of love as greater than that of the Sun, which is the aim of this poem.

Donne shows the capacity of his relationship by describing his bed, the place where they share their love, as “thy centre” and the bedroom walls as “thy sphere”. This is significant as he is saying that they are at the centre of everything, the Earth, the Sun, maybe even the universe. Spheres are a recurring theme throughout Donne’s poetry and they can represent multiple ideas, in ‘The Sun Rising’, I believe its referring to the Christian idea of God’s love being eternal, and idea that is represented by circles and spheres. John Donne was a practising Catholic for most of his early life, until his brother was suspected of ‘Catholic sympathies’ and died in prison. This caused him to question his faith and he later converted to the Church of England. However, this changing of denomination would have had little effect on his core Christian beliefs of God’s eternal and unconditional love amongst others. It is interesting that a man of such faith would write about himself in a way that compares him to God, it could be seen as blasphemous. But maybe this is what Donne was trying to convey. Donne’s love for his partner is greater than the power of any higher deity like the sun, or even God himself. The use of the sphere covers up this idea as there could have been some severe consequences for him if he were insinuating that he is greater than God in any way.

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