Metaphysical Conceit in John Donne's The Sun Rising
Have you ever been in love? Have you ever felt a love so strong that nothing else seemed to matter? I hope that you have, but if you haven't, John Donne's poem, "The Sun Rising", gives a revealing glimpse into the emotional roller coaster that is true love. In the poem, Donne uses what is called a "metaphysical conceit" to emphasize the strength of the devotion between him and his lover. A metaphysical conceit is a metaphor extended to extreme, almost absurd lengths, so it makes sense for it to be used to describe intense feelings such as the devotion of two lovers. This definitely applies here, for in the mind of the narrator, he and his lover are the entire world, and the mighty sun, a mere servant to their desires.
Donne's narrator begins the metaphor in the first stanza, addressing the sun as its morning rays awaken him, through the curtain. He scolds it as if it were an unruly butler, calling the sun a "busy old fool" (Line1). It is suggested that the sun should be attending to more important concerns at that hour, rather than waking to lovers:
"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;"(Lines 5-8).
In other words, time means much more to those who must deal with everyday problems, like going to work, school, or out for a hunt. Time has no meaning to two people in love. They have no use for the sun. This may sound a little melodramatic, but that is one aspect of the metaphysical conceit: There is no question as to the writer's position on the subject. This is just the beginning.
In the second stanza, the narrator's anger, at first turns threatening. He warns that the sun could be darkened "with a wink" (Line 13), but he chooses not to do so, because he would not want to go so long without seeing his lover. Upon looking at her, full of pride and bravado, he says to the sun,
"If her eyes have not blinded thine.
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th'Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou lef'st them, or lie here with me."
At the time this poem was written, colonialism and world trade were just getting into full swing, so it would have been quite a complement to be compared to the East or West Indies. Both were highly regarded and valued for their spices and gold, respectively. He keeps piling on the praise, though, extending his "we are the world" metaphor by comparing themselves...