The Sun Rising - John Donne.

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The Sun Rising – John Donne.

John Donne was born to a London merchant and illustrious Catholic family in 1572 in a time when Catholics were being persecuted by Queen Elizabeth I. Although he was educated and brought up as a Catholic, later in life he renounced his Catholic faith and became ordained in the Church of England in 1615, eventually becoming the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. He was a powerful and direct speaker in church, and it is for this, as well as his poetry, that he is remembered. Donne’s reputation was largely eclipsed in the nineteenth century, and was due to T.S.Eliot that his reputation has been revived since.

He was a man of great contradictions; being a minister in the Church, he was deeply spiritual, but he was also a great erotic poet, and this tension between spiritual piety and carnal lust is a key theme in many of his poems.

He was one of the leading poets to use a style known as ‘metaphysical poetry’ which served to illustrate the tension between religion and love that he was so fascinated in. Metaphysical poetry flourished in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, and metaphysical poets were generally in rebellion against the conventional imagery of Elizabethan lyrics. The poems are intellectually complex, and use jarred and unconventional rhythm and unusual verse forms. In order to challenge conventional imagery, metaphysical poets used metaphysical conceit, a tool which involves using bizarre and surprising metaphors. An example of this in Donne’s poetry is in Holy Sonnet 14 when Donne compares God to a rapist. Donne’s poetry displays many typical features of metaphysical poetry, with its eccentric reasoning, strange metaphors and unusual meters. Apart from Donne, other great metaphysical poets included Andrew Marvell, Robert Herrick and George Herbert, some of whose poetry is in this selection.

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We do not actually know the precise date at which the Sun Rising was written, but it is typical of Donne’s style; the image that the sun is subject to the speaker’s will is unusual and unconventional, and the meter is irregular and jarred. The narrator starts the poem lying in bed with his lover, and he reproaches the sun for bothering him through windows and curtains. He says that love is not subject to time, and tells the sun to bother ‘Late school-boys’, ‘sour ’prentices’, to tell the court-huntsmen that the King will ride and to call ...

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