Themes in The Sunne Rising

The theme, as in The Good-morrow, is The nature and completeness of the lovers' world. Their existence together is seen as a microcosm. The idea of the microcosm was a familiar one to the Elizabethans.

More on microcosm: It means literally a ‘little world' that corresponds exactly to the macrocosm, the greater world of the universe. Usually, man himself was seen as a microcosm: the small human body corresponded exactly to the ‘body of the State', which, in its turn, corresponded to the ‘body' of the universe. There was a sense of order as well as correspondence in this. If the outer universe were to be disordered, as shown in eclipses, falling stars, and so on, this would be a sign of some disorder happening or about to happen in the State. The biblical image of the church as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) is a similar sort of concept, though we see it as only an analogy. To the Elizabethans, it was literally true. Donne sees the little world of the lovers as a microcosm, but has no room (no pun intended) for the macrocosm.

Changing times

Donne is writing at a time where such ideas, medieval in origin, were being displaced, just as the idea of the sun circling the earth was being displaced by the concept of the sun being the centre of the solar system, with the earth circling it. He can afford to play with the former ideas, since their credibility is being called into question. Thus, he takes the microcosm concept to a ludicrous extent, just as he reverts to the old idea of the sun being the voyager round the earth.

What about beauty?

The one theme that a love poem would conventionally cover is the beauty of the mistress. Donne never does this in any of his love poems. In The Sunne Rising, her eyes are mentioned, but not described. What Donne is really interested in is the intensity of the experience of being in love. Hence the concept of metaphysical love. The physical would be concerned with the woman's physical beauty; the metaphysical deals with the state of actually being in love.

Investigating The Sunne Rising
  • What do you understand from the poem about the experience of being in love?
    • Does it correspond to any experience of your own?
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