(Poem #465) The Sun Rising
Busy old fool, unruly Sun, Why dost thou thus, Through windows, and through curtains, call on us? Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run? Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide Late schoolboys, and sour prentices, Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride, Call country ants to harvest offices, Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime, Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time. Thy beams, so reverend and strong Why shouldst thou think? I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink, But that I would not lose her sight so long: If her eyes have not blinded thine, Look, and tomorrow late, tell me Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me. Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday, And thou shalt hear: "All here in one bed lay." She is all states, and all princes I, Nothing else is. Princes do but play us; compar'd to this, All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy. Thou, sun, art half as happy 's we, 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. Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.
It's difficult not to be dazzled by Donne's wit and imagery; unfortunately, at times it seems equally difficult to get over his lack of, well, 'poeticness', for want of a better word. At times he seems to consciously ignore conventional measures of rhyme and metre and poetic beauty, concentrating instead on shocking his readers with unexpected turns of phrase and outrageous conceits. His language is direct and conversational, his verse full of dissonance and colloquialism. Not for him the gods and goddesses of Petrarch or even Spenser's nymphs; his poetry is, instead, 'a dazzling battery of language and argument drawn from science, law and trade, court and city' (EB). Samuel Johnson puts it best: Donne's ideas and intellect are worthy of true respect, but 'for not keeping number' he deserves to be hanged <grin>. On the other hand, no less a personage than Tagore describes Donne as the greatest lyric poet in the English tongue, so opinion is certainly divided on the issue. Personally I like his verse , but I'm willing to admit that at times the ideas overshadow the poetry. A more serious charge often laid against Donne is that he lacks depth - that he runs out of inspiration after the first few lines of any poem, and relies on mere wit to propel him forward. Again, this accusation is not without truth, but it's not as damning as it appears at first blush - "his use of difficult argument, complex metaphor and allegory [may be] a device to control and discipline his wildly romantic heart - he treads over-carefully like a drunk who does not trust his own tottering footsteps."  It should also be remembered that Donne's poems are as much about intellect as they are about emotion; to blame him (as the Romantics did) for pursuing the former at the expense of the latter is missing the point entirely. And as Eliot pointed out three centuries later, Donne and the Metaphysicals were the last group of poets able to unify these two strains into a single poetic consciousness. Anyway. It looks like I got a wee bit carried away with the litt critic thing; enough already - I'll just leave you now to enjoy the poem. thomas.  Read 'Go and Catch a Falling Star', a beautiful guest poem with some very insightful comments from Anustup Dutta, at poem #384 . [Notes] "both th' Indias of spice and mine" refers to the East and West Indies, home to exotic spices and rich mines, respectively. "alchemy" refers here to counterfeit gold; the subject itself was one of Donne's favourite sources of metaphor and symbolism. See his 'Valediction: Forbidding Mourning' at poem #330 for the most famous example. [Links] An explication of the poem can be found at [broken link] http://potato.ieec.uned.es/Filologia/Cursos/LenguaInglesaIII/TextosYComentarios/poemas.htm . I found it rather simplistic, but it makes for a good introduction. There's an essay on 'The Lover as Logician' at [broken link] http://www.ntin.net/McDaniel/d-secula.htm which I quite liked; here's an extract: In "The Sun Rising," Donne follows in the aubade tradition of the song to the rising sun. (Cf. Romeo's "But soft! What light through yon window breaks?/ It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.") He rebukes the sun for waking him and his beloved. Echoing sentiments in Shakespeare's Sonnet 73, he frees love from temporal demands: "Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,/ Nor hours, months days, which are the rage of time." In the same fashion that he will mock Death in the most famous of his Holy Sonnets, he demeans the sun, saying that he could shut the sun's beams out at any time by closing his eyes, but he would thereby lose sight of her. Using the Petrarchan conceit that Shakespeare mocks in the opening line of Sonnet 130, Donne tells the sun that if her eyes "have not blinded thine," it should report the next day where the richness of the world layin the spice-and-gold rich Indies or in their bedroom. "She is all states, all princes, I./ Nothing else is." All the world's pageantry and honor is but a imperfect imitation of their exalted state, made so by love, which has made them "an everywhere," a microcosm of all that is of value in the world. -- [broken link] http://www.ntin.net/McDaniel/d-secula.htm Also not to be missed is Brittanica on the Metaphysicals and on Donne in particular; extracts can be found at poem #330. [Moreover] Brittanica describes Donne as 'the first London poet' - which I suppose is a connection of sorts with Martin's theme for this week. Michael Schmidt, in his _highly_ recommended study 'The Lives of the Poets', says this about Donne: "Robert Graves describes his verbal jugglery thus: 'Donne is adept at keeping the ball in flight, but he deceives us by sometimes changing them in mid-air'. A juggler who changes balls in mid-air was bound to appeal to Eliot and the Modernists..." The phrase 'verbal jugglery' reminds me irresistibly of Peter Schaeffer's gorgeously complex poem 'Juggler, Magician, Fool: A Pantoume', archived at poem #195. Come to think of it, that poem could have been made for Donne - both as a direct tribute to the man and his poetry, and as an exercise in self-reference, ingenuity and wit. Read it!