The sun rising, John Donne

The word ‘aubade’ came unbidden into my head this morning, just when any sun that has risen is shrouded behind flat grey in a sky so dully indeterminate it’s too boring to attempt to describe. Perhaps that’s exactly why? A taste of summer as we edge into autumn, and a sense of leisureliness because of the weekend? Or maybe it’s just all that talk about the grading of English papers making me remember my own A-levels. Goodness, how important they seemed at the time, and how utterly irrelevant they are now. I don’t think I’ve been able to read  A Passage to India since; I gave my battered, underlined, annotated copy to a mate for his re-take. I still have my Quinn’s Catullus, though, which my Latin teacher ordered new for me and then let me keep when I returned all my other textbooks, because I was so fond of it.

In my personal literary lexicon, ‘aubade’ always means this poem, though. I give you good morrow!

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run ?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think ?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, “All here in one bed lay.”

She’s all states, and all princes I ;
Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus ;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.


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I've run out of books. Again.

4 thoughts on “The sun rising, John Donne”

  1. Ah, still remember those John Donne sessions as one of the few bright moments (along with Hamlet) in a very dull couple of years of A-level English. Well, apart from extra-curricular activities, of course….

    I still have my copy of the metaphysical poets that I must have inadvertently purloined from the state. Criminal.

    Thank you for reminding me of this poem.

  2. Andy – I remember our A-level years as such a lot of fun, with a bit of school getting in the way. You let it get in the way less than some of us, of course… 😉

  3. Rebecca, belated thanks for what I assume to be a subtle yet glowing tribute to my teenage sense of insight and direction. Who knew that school could be fun if you approached it in the right way (i.e. by heading in the other direction)? And that multi-storey car parks were really misunderstood, concrete theatres of dreams? We learned so much…

  4. Andy – Didn’t we, though? I never thought I’d miss a multi-storey and Newcastle Brown.

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