Structure and versification in The Sunne Rising

Unusual stanza form

Both the stanza form and the metre of The Sunne Rising are complicated, but in the rush of the dramatic rhythms, we hardly notice at first. Ten-line stanzas are unusual; the rhyming scheme even more so: abba cdcd ee. The sentence structures run very closely with this rhyme scheme, so in fact, each stanza is firmly controlled. The final couplets are iambic pentameters, often used in satiric verse, and there is both that tone of satire and the note of finality that a good clinching couplet gives us.

Long and short lines

The overall stanza pattern of the poem seems to be Donne's invention. The mixture of longer and shorter lines is used dramatically. The short second line, for example, allows him to say:

‘Nothing else is' and the whole re-enacts the point. This IS the whole line.

Investigating The Sunne Rising
  • Can you see how Donne's overall argument is structured?
    • How is each stanza used as a step in that argument?
  • Try reading the poem out loud.
    • Where do you want to be emphatic?
    • Where do you want to read more quickly?
    • Where do you want to read more softly?


Although much of the metre is iambic, the first foot inversion is needed by Donne for the effect of his speaking voice, as in the opening stanza's ‘Busy', ‘Why', ‘Must', ‘Sawcy' and ‘Love'. There are extra spondees for emphasis, too, as in the list in l.10, or ‘Nóthing élse ís' (l.22), the short second line here being rhythmically quite different from the dimeters of the second lines of stanzas 1 and 2.

Investigating The Sunne Rising
  • Donne is often praised for the quality of his ‘speaking voice'
    • What do you understand by this?
    • Can you find examples of it?
  • Overall, what strike you as the most memorable aspects of this poem?
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