Language and tone in The Sunne Rising


As with other Donne poems, it is the voice in The Sunne Rising that strikes us first. We are aware of the drama of

  • The poet's strident address to the sun
  • the explosive beginning
  • the piling up of invectives and commands

The absurdity of it all does not perhaps strike us so much at first.

Each stanza has a different voice.

  • The first stanza is strident, commanding at first, but then breaks into a triumphant note in the final couplet
  • The second stanza is more controlled but scornful. Donne cleverly inverts the first two lines of the stanza, so that at first we think he is acknowledging the sun's beams, only to have the bathos of the second line, with the scornful question ‘Why shouldst thou think?'
  • The third stanza is more celebratory and confident. Donne is more relaxed and can even consider allowing the sun to have some function connected with the lovers. They can accommodate it, having tamed it as their messenger boy. The final couplet is very confident.


The language is obviously dramatic and exaggerated. Many words occur quite unexpectedly, as opposed to the conventional diction of much Elizabethan love poetry. ‘Sawcy pedantique wretch' is an oxymoron:

  • ‘saucy' suggests lively and cheeky
  • ‘pedantique' suggests precise and rather boring.

The diction here covers all social classes, from the court to ‘countrey ants', which may literally be ants or may just refer to the busy labourers at harvest-time.

Investigating The Sunne Rising
  • Look at the questions asked in The Sunne Rising
  • The language is quite geographically and scientifically orientated
    • Can you find further examples?
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