Table of Contents
The Sun Rising Questions and Answers
Short Essay Type Questions with Answers
1. Consider Donne’s The Sun Rising as a metaphysical poem.
Mention the features of metaphysical poetry found in the poem.
Ans. Donne is best known for using imaginative writing and for being a metaphysical poet. The characteristics of this style are; witty humour, irony, the use of paradoxes and play with words. Themes such as love, geography and cosmology, romance and man’s relationship with God, were often used by metaphysical poets. Joan Bennetdescribes metaphysical poetry as poetry where ’emotions are shaped and expressed by logical reasoning, and both sound and picture are subservient to this end. Words consecrated to poetry are avoided they prefer words in everyday use they are soberly engaged in commerce or in scientific speculation’.
The first line starts with a personification of the sun. Donne expresses that the sun is disturbing ‘us’ by which he refers to two lovers. When he continues, he asks the sun to go away and to disturb others such as school-boys and the huntsman. According to Bennet, there is the notion of the ‘sun’ which is important for Donne’s poetry. By referring to circular objects such as the sun, the author refers to the metaphysical theme of love in a very imaginative, creative and thoughtful manner. In line fifteen-another hyperbole is being used; the poet asks the sun whether his love has not blinded the sun. By using witty and humorous exaggerations, Donne uses another characteristic of metaphysical poetry.
The poetic voice challenges the sun by telling it to travel the world and finding someone of great power. This is actually impossible because the lover already knows that the love between him and his lover is more powerful than anything. In the last stanza a hyperbole and comparison are being used; ‘She’s all states, and all princes I’. Here, the author compares his lover to ‘all states’ or the world. The poetic voice compares himself to the princes who rule over those states or the world. The comparison and exaggeration which are being used are very extreme and can also be considered to be characteristics of metaphysical poetry. Next to this, an ironic line is inserted in which the poet uses another personification of the sun, he tries to make the sun ‘envious’ by using a word play to say that the sun is only half as happy as they are. The irony and word play Donne uses here can again be linked to metaphysical poetry.
Other themes of metaphysical poetry, ‘geology’ and ‘cosmology’, are being referred to. Donne’s interest in geology is made clear by making a distinction between two worlds, the actual world and the world of lovers to which he refers as a ‘sphere’.
The use of paradoxes also describes metaphysical poetry. Donne refers to the fact that lovers live in their own imaginative world within the actual world. He claims this love is like the sun, shining everlasting and mighty and all this in their own world. Therefore, he uses the last line when referring to the line ‘This bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere’. So, by analysing the poem and Donne’s sophisticated style it can be said that The Sun Risingis a metaphysical poem.
Q. 2 Discuss The Sun Rising as a love poem.
Show the theme of the authority of love by Donne.
Ans. The poem The Sun Rising is addressed to the sun, but the theme of the poem is the joy of true love. The poet-lover John Donne’s wit and irony are here directed against the sun for trying to interfere in the lover’s happiness. In the opening stanza, the sun is addressed as “busy, old fool” flashing his light into the lover’s bedroom, perhaps with the intention of waking up and parting them. It is unfair on his part to expect the lovers to act according to his movements. He may go about his trivial errands like pulling up ‘late school boys’ and lazy apprentices who hate to work. Love is above time, which is regulated by the sun. For lovers, seasons, hours and days have no meaning.
The argument against the sun is continued further. The sun, says the speaker, need not think that his light is dazzling and worthy of respect. If the poet closes his eyes, the sunlight is rendered dark. But he does not like to lose sight of his beloved by closing his eyes. In hyperbolic language he asks the sun if the eyes of his beloved are not brighter than sunlight. Roaming over the whole world, the sun can inform him on the next day whether the lady is not worth more than the East and the West Indies. The poet’s lady comprises in her all the kingdoms. The poet, in the possession of his mistress is thus richer than any king on earth. The lovers in Donne’s poem are the archetypal ideas or the soul of the world, of which the states and princes are imperfect perfections.
all material wealth seems counterfeit.
Compared to the lovers’ spiritual wealth, The sun, being old and run down, will welcome the contraction of the world. Now that the lovers are the world, the sun can fulfil his duty of lighting and warming the world by merely shining on them. Love is shown as having triumphed over time and space. A. Stein points out, “What the lovers represent majestically is not a distillation of all that is precious and delightful on earth to the imagination of a lover, who does not feel himself quite on earth…. The lovers possess in their bed what does not seem to incommode them as idea and image, a composite token of the material possession of that gross external world. “The poem also represents, in an extraordinary way, the power of love and the emotions of a lover, love being independent of every law and rule.
Q. 3. Explain the opening conceit of The Sun Rising.
Ans. The most remarkable quality of John Donne’s poetry is the use of metaphysical conceit which is a figure of speech in which two farfetched objects or images of very different nature are compared. It surprises its readers by its ingenious discovery and delights them by its intellectual quality. A metaphysical conceit is usually classified as a subtype of metaphor – an elaborate and strikingly unconventional or supposedly far-fetched metaphor, hyperbole, contradiction, simile, paradox or oxymoron causing a shock to the reader by the obvious dissimilarity – a “distance” between or stunning incompatibility of the objects compared.
The main conceit or metaphor of The Sun Rising is the personification of the sun into an old man – a “busy, old fool” – whose business it is to get everyone out of bed and on the way to work. The persona adopted by the poet sees fit to argue with the sun, and this creates a comic opening to the poem. This is extended when, in the second stanza, he claims that he is stronger than the sun, because he can “eclipse and cloud” his beams just by winking. This is of course true, but it does not really mean that the sun is not “so reverend, and strong”, as stated. At the end of the poem he treats the sun more gently: his “age asks ease” so they are in the position to help him, since he only has to warm the two of them, and he warms the whole world.
Donne’s conceit describes the sun as a human being who walks in on the lovers, and then with help from what was, to Donne, modern science-makes himself and his beloved into their own cosmic entity, their own universe.
Q. 4. Explain the secondary conceit of the poem.
Ans. A metaphysical conceit is usually classified as a subtype of metaphor – an elaborate and strikingly unconventional or supposedly far-fetched metaphor, hyperbole, contradiction, simile, paradox or oxymoron causing a shock to the reader by the obvious dissimilarity – a “distance” between or stunning incompatibility of the objects compared. In Donne’s The Sun Rising, the secondary conceit is the metaphor that the speaker’s lover is “all states” – she is all the treasures of the world. As a result, therefore, he is “all princes”. Donne elevates the importance of the relationship using this hyperbole.
The speaker combines this hyperbole (the speaker has all the power in the world) with litotes, in his deliberate reduction of the importance of everything else. Measurements of time, i.e. “hours, days, months”, are likened to “rags”, all honour is “mimic”, and wealth is “alchemy”. He sums it up with the statement “nothing else is”. This combination of the two techniques demonstrates how great their love is. Metaphorically, it is the only thing in the world – and so their room becomes the whole “sphere” for the sun. The sun, having been shown the door, now gets asked to remain. The pronouns “I” and “she” disappear, leaving only “us” and “we”; thus combined, the lovers become the whole Earth, and since the sun’s job is to warm the Earth, it ought to stay where the lovers are, and orbit them. Not only will Donne and Anne escape detection and censure, since the sun will never shine anywhere else, but the lovers won’t even have to get out of bed.
Donne never ceases to impress by showcasing the strong emotions reflected by conceit, network of images and the extraordinarily witty and ingenious language. It is the amazingly original conceit that makes his poems with a common love topic so uncommon. Donne’s poems are quite capable of stirring the emotions, and no matter how uncommon and intellectual his conceits, his poems would not work without a seed of genuine feeling at their centre.
Q. 5. Bring out the theme: Love as a Microcosm of the Universe.
Ans. a The Sun Rising, like much of Donne’s poetry, uses metaphor entire world into a small space. This technique is stabilised in the idea of a “microcosm,” popular Renaissance belief that the human body was a small-scale model of the wholeuniverse. In the case of “The Sun Rising,” the small space is not a single body but rather the lovers’ bed. The speaker claims that'” to warm the world” is the same thing as “warming us,” transforming himself into a kind of king of the world and the center ofthe universe. In fact, love in the poem is so grand that the universe itself exists withinthe relationship between the two lovers.
The speaker uses extended metaphor not only to compare his bed to an empire but also to take in all of theworld’s empires into his own bed. In so doing, he collapses the expansive world into the space of his bedroom. In the secondstanza, the speaker demands of the sun to look for “both th’ Indias of spice and mine” in the place where they were last located. The “Indias” referred to here are the East Indies and the West Indies, both of which had been colonized by European nations by thetime Donne was writing. The speaker goes on to claim that these peripheral sources of imperial wealth and power now “lie herewith me,” meaning that they have been incorporated into the body of the speaker’s lover.
The poet-lover claims that the kings of the empires that extend into the East and West Indies “All here in one bed lay.” Thespeaker doesn’t mean that the bed is literally full of kings. Rather, this line suggests that the kings and the power they representhave all been incorporated into the body of the speaker. As the kings conquer more nations in an effort to expand their empires, these far-ranging empires are simply relocated to and consolidated in the lovers’ bed. Because the speaker’s lover is figured as”all states” and the speaker himself is figured as “all princes,” the world outside the bedroom falls away. The speaker is able toclaim that “Nothing else is,” meaning that the relationship between the two lovers is all that matters.
The speaker’s transformation of himself into the rightful heir to all the world’s thrones gives him greater sovereignty than any individual ruler has. By turning the bed into a microcosm, then, the speaker is able to inflate his ownimportance so that his orders to the sun are justified rather than insubordinate (‘unruly’). The speaker, meanwhile, is able to assign the sun” duties” according to his will. The sun thus serves the speaker as the court huntsmen serve the king. This impossible reordering of the universe inflates the speaker’s power past the point that any earthly prince or king’s power can grow.
By “contracting” the entire world to the microcosm of the bed, the speaker asserts the authority and all-encompassing powergiven to him by love.
Ans. The poem The Sun Rising is addressed to the sun, but the theme of the poem is the joy of true love. The poet-lover John Donne’s wit and irony are here directed against the sun for trying to interfere in the lover’s happiness. The speaker’s inflation of his importance in relation to political rulers is underscored by a playfully bold insinuation that to wakeup in bed with a lover is analogous to an ascent to divine power. In other words, waking up to alover canmake one feel like a god.
6 .Discuss the theme: Love and Divinity.
Although the speaker never explicitly names any religious themes, the poem’s preoccupation with sovereignty (ruling power)evokes the notion of the divine right of kings. Kings in Donne’s day were traditionally thought to derive their ruling powerdirectly from God. If the speaker becomes more powerful than all of the world’s rulers put together, he thus achieves godlikepower.
On top of this implicit gesture to the divine, the speaker calls intoquestion that idea that the sun’s beams are “reverend,” or worthy of being worshipped like God. Whereas earthly kings must stillkneel before the sun because it is one ofthe few things God does not place in their control, the speaker manages to transform thesun into a servant that kneels before him. The speaker thus becomes more “reverend” than the sun.
The poem’s title furthermore likens the speaker to Christ upon his resurrection. Although the sun is explicitly the one who is”rising” according to the title, the entire poem is a meditation on the speaker’s imperative to rise from bed. Because of this double” rising,” and because the speaker positions himself as the one the sun must worship as kings worship the sun, the speaker mightbe said to be a second “sun rising.” Thespeaker’s thwarting of natural laws over the course of the poem is similar to Christ’s thwarting of death via crucifixion.
The poet-lover’s near-heretical claim to divine power is built upon his relationship with his lover. Only by likening her body to allthe world’s empires is the speaker able to assert himself as this Christlike figure who is exempt from the natural laws to whichemperors must defer.
Q. 7. Explain the symbol of the Sun in the poem.
Ans. The speaker of The Sun Rising addresses the poem to the sun, but the sun is more than an annoyance the speaker wants tobanish. The poet-lover’s wit and irony are here directed against the sun for trying to interfere in the lover’s happiness. The sun sits at the top of the cosmological hierarchy: it controls the solar system, and it answers, according to popularthought in Donne’s day, only to God. The sun represents immense, near divine power. And when the speaker overthrows the sunand turns it into his servant, he is unsettling the entire order of the universe.
This order was conceived by the ancient Greeks as the “Great Chain of Being,” and the concept was later revived by Renaissance philosophers. It placed everything in the world, living or not, somewhere along a chain that stretched from God all the way downto rocks. The sun was high on the chain. The anonymous speaker would have been much lower. In his effort to switch placeswith the sun, the speaker climbs up this chain, past the kings and princes thought to occupy the highest possible human link inthe chain. The speaker’s intellectual competition with the sun thus tangles up the Great Chain of Being.
By the end of the poem, the speaker has eliminated every link except for himself and the sun, reforming the chain so that he is notonly the top link, but also an enormous link. By addressing the poem to the sun, which is already very high up on the Great Chainof Being, the speaker can rise to a near godlike position and stature in the universal hierarchy.
Q. 8.What does Empire signify in the poem The Sun Rising?
Ans. The speaker of The Sun Rising is obsessed with carving out an empire for himself. However, he refuses to leave his bed. Bycomparing his lover to “th’ Indias of spice and mine,” then to “all states,” and by comparing himself to “all kings” and “allprinces,” the speaker expands his power beyond that of any earthly ruler. An empire represents, to the speaker, an extremeposition of power. Running all the empires in the world is beyond human power, beyond human control.
By claiming to run all these empires within the comfort of his bed, the poet-lover accomplishes two things. First, he demonstrates that he doesn’t need to get up in the morning in order to work his way into a position of power. The sun might as well let himsleep in. Second, he demonstrates that he is even more powerful than the sun by stealing entire empires out from under its nose.
The sun, kings, and princes were all thought during the Renaissance to derive their power directly from God. By consolidating the power of all kings and princes, and by demonstrating that he is more powerful than the sun, the speaker becomes the mostpowerful being in the universe apart from God. In this way, the speaker’s conquest of all empires turns him into a Christ-like figure. He is God’s “Son Rising” to challenge the “Sun Rising” in the poem’s title.
Short Questions with Answers
Q1. Why does the poet-lover call the sun ‘busy, old fool, unruly’?
Ans. The poet-lover, in an insulting tone, addresses the sun as ‘busy, old fool, unruly’. He calls the sun ‘busy’ since it has been continuously warming and lighting the earth. The sun is chided as an ‘old fool’ since it has been ever present. And this old fellow is also ‘unruly’ as it shines past the windows and closed curtains to pay an uninvited visit to the lovers’ bedroom.
Q. 2. What is meant by ‘Must to thy motions lovers’ season run?’
Ans. Donne, in a dismissive tone, wonders why lovers should obey the sun. Lovers, it is implied, are above such commands. The sun represents the outside world and hedoes not want to be reminded of it right now.
Q. 3. How does the poet-lover belittle the sun?
Or, Why does the speaker call the sun ‘saucy pedantic wretch’?
Ans. Donne belittles the sun by calling him insolent (saucy), fussy (pedantic), despicable person (‘wretch’) who has the arrogance to disturb the lovers while they are still busy in love making.
Q. 4. What, according to Donne, should be the actual concern of the sun?
Ans. The sun, according to Donne, should concern itself with those over whom it actually has power: chiding the late school-boys and sour apprentices and waking the huntsmen who serve the king and the farmers who reap the harvest.
Q. 5. Why are the apprentices called ‘sour’?
Ans. According to Donne, the apprentices are ‘sour’ because the sun’s call to work brings no joy to them compared to the joy the lovers feel in their quiet contentment.
6 .Give the dual meaning of ‘country ants’.
The term ‘country ants’ has a dual meaning: firstly, it refers to the real ants who collect grains and store them in their underground granaries for winter and secondly, to the field labourers, taking ant as the symbol of labour, which brings to mind the wisdom of Solomon, a transition from the commonplace to the uncommon. .
Q. 7. “Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime, Nor hours, days, months which are the rags of time..Explain.
Ans. This rhyming couplet sums up the idea that love transcends time. Unlike all the people named earlier, Donne and his lover are free from both the control of others and the sun. ‘Hours, days, months’ are dismissed as ‘the rags of time’. They are mere divisions of time which have no importance for the lovers.
Q. 8. “But that I would not lose her sight so long;” – Explain.
Why does not the speaker want to ‘eclipse and cloud them (the sunrays) with a wink’?
Ans. In this powerful expression of his love, Donne says that he would not close his eyes for even a moment as it would mean that he could lose the sight of his beloved. That is why he does not want to eclipse the rays of the sun with a wink.
Q. 9. “Whether both the Indias of spice and mine. Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.” – Explain.
Or, What should the sun report to the speaker if the mistress’s eyes have not blinded the sun?
Ans. The sun, which has shone on all corners of the globe, is asked whether all the spices of the East Indies and the wealth of the West Indies are there where it left them or in the lovers’ bedroom.
Q.10. What does Donne want to convey when he says that of spice and mine’ lie with them?
Ans. The “Indias” referred to are the East Indies and the West Indies, both of which had been colonized by European nations by the time Donne was speaker goes on to claim that these peripheral sources of imperial wealth and power now “lie here with me,” meaning that they have been incorporated into the body of the speaker’s lover.
Q.11. “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.” – Explain.
Ans. Donne tells the sun to travel the world and see all its treasures and its great rulers. It will find that they are not there as everything of value is in bed with him. His lover is ‘all states’ and therefore he is ruler of the world.
Q.12. “Princes do but play us, compared to this, All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.” – Explain.
Ans. Donne feels nothing else can be as important. Nothing truly exists but he and his lover. Anything else is a poor imitation. All honour and wealth outside the bedroom is fake. Their room has become the centre of the universe. This hyperbole combines well with the litotes (deliberate understatement) of the earlier lines in which time was reduced to ‘rags’ and the following in which all wealth is merely ‘alchemy’.
Q.13. Why does the poet-lover claim the sun to be ‘half as happy’ as the lovers?
Pitying on the sun, the poet-lover claims that it should be half as glad as they are since the whole world fits there in the bedroom. The poet also points out weaknesses of the sun. It is alone and has no beloved. Moreover, it does not have the feelings of love.
Q.14. “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.” – Explain.
Or, How, according to the speaker, can the sun perform its duties with ease?
Ans. By the end of the poem, the speaker has “contracted” the entire world to their bedroom. Duty of the sun is to give light to the world, says Donne but the sun has grown old now. The poet, his beloved and their room is the whole world; therefore, the sun can fulfill his duty easily by giving light only to their room. After doing so, the sun can do rest as he needs it in this age; “thine age askes ease”.