Imagery and symbolism in The Sunne Rising

There are three central figures in The Sunne Rising.

The sun

The first is the personification of the sun, used in a hyperbolic conceit.

  • The sun divides time up into divisions, which are then dismissed as ‘rags'
  • It is ‘unruly', since it does not abide by the lovers' rule, which is to stay in bed together as long as possible and enjoy the intimacy of that
  • Donne challenges the sheer insistence of the sun: he has only to close his eyes, and he would not even see the sun. It would simply not be there!
  • This conceit is immediately undermined with another: to close his eyes would be to lose sight of his mistress for a moment, and he could not bear to do that. (The term ‘mistress' at this time just means the woman he loves, whether girl-friend, partner or wife.)


The second main figure is that of royalty. This includes images of luxury and riches.

  • In a two-person world, one of them is bound to be the prince or king. Interestingly, the mistress is not seen as his consort, but his state.
  • Her body becomes the geography as significantly as the contours of the bedroom. We notice this geography of the body in other poems, too, such as Elegie XIX: Going to Bed
  • The royalty image is seen in ‘Princes do but play us', ‘All honor's mimique'. The outside world is pretence and pretentiousness. Their love is the true authenticity.

Theirs the only world

The third image is the conceit of the lovers' world being the only world.

  • Phrases like ‘thou art every where', ‘This bed thy centre is', ‘all here in one bed lay', and the splendid ‘nothing else is' are examples of this. It is very similar to the imagery of The Good-morrow.

Investigating The Sunne Rising
  • Compare the images in this poem to those in The Good-morrow, especially the global images.
    • In what way is the bed the centre?
    • Pick out other examples of Donne's personification.
    • Why is it so effective?
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