Stephen Jenkins 5th December 2001

GCSE Coursework


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John Donne’s Poetry is Emotionally Intense,

Full of Passionate Feelings and Opinionated Attitudes.


“The Sunne Rising”, “The Anniversary”, “The Apparition” and “A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy’s Day; Being the Shortest Day” are four poems written in the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century by a poet named John Donne. Around the time of William Shakespeare, when these poems were written, he was renowned for his poems about love, death, hate and many other strong emotions, which are displayed in each of the four aforementioned poems. Later on in his life, he went on to concentrate on writing poems on religion rather than love. He was a committed Catholic in a time when Catholics ruled the country.

All of the poems are written for a woman and show his intense emotions towards this woman. It is unknown whether the woman in each of the poems is the same woman because of the unknown time at which each of the poems was written. The poems all show his passionate feelings, opinionated attitudes and intense emotions towards various different people and objects, mainly the woman, who is central to each poem.

In this essay I will discuss John Donne’s emotions and feelings present throughout his poems.

His writing expresses a wide variety of expressions and feelings, opinions, emotions and attitudes. In all of the poems Donne describes intensely, to the best of his ability, the experience of love. I will start by analyzing John Donne’s emotions in “The Sunne Rising”. In this first poem, his intense love for a woman is clearly evident. He begins the poem by insulting and belittling the sun by saying:

” Busie old foole, unruly, Sunne ”

Here, Donne uses a shorter line than usual in the poem to personify the sun. It is personified, harshly, as a dirty old pervert, peeking at two young lovers (Donne and his girlfriend/wife) during sexual intercourse through the curtains. His immediate arrogance in this poem shines through on this first line.

Superiority and arrogance is never more evident than when he attacks the whole social hierarchy of his era by writing:

” Sawcy pedantique wretch, goe chide,

Late schoole boyes, and sowre prentices,

Goe tell court – huntsmen, that the king will ride,

Call countrey ants to harvest offices; ”

On this occasion, he uses a dismissive intonation pattern by using mainly mono – syllabic words in each line. He portrays each of the above characters as minor, inferior to him, which is particularly offensive towards the king considering the social hierarchy of the day.

In this poem, his manner towards the woman is that she and he are both equal (for the first two verses), but it becomes evident he feels he is in control of her, for example, when he declares:

” She is all states, and all princes, I ”

He uses royalty in this case to put across his feeling they are both superior to everybody else, but really he is in control of the woman because princes would rule a state at the time. His emotion is clearly shown when later on in the dialogue he describes here as “The India’s of spice and Myne” which were two of the most wonderful, valuable treasures in the world. However, it does shown that in the poem he sees her as beautiful and valuable, but a beautiful and valuable object.

Nevertheless, his feelings towards the woman are not any weaker than in the three other poems I studied although his actual true loving for her can be doubted. When saying she is so sexy, bright and beautiful that her eyes could blind the sun, along with the following quote, Donne is showing that he does really admire the woman and she does mean a tremendous amount to him, albeit in a sexual way.

” Aske for those kings who thou saws’t yesterday,

And thou shalt here, All here in one bed lay ”

The repetition of the word “here” means that he is emphasizing that the woman is greater than the kings are because she is “here” with him and they aren’t.

John Donne’s derogatory demeanor towards the sun continues to a point where his self-appointed superiority is present more than ever. This is when he tells the sun that even if it only warmed his bedroom instead of the whole world, even after this great decrease in work, it would only be half as happy as he (Donne) is (when he’s in bed with his woman). His intense negative attitude and hatred toward the sun but also his extreme passionate feelings for the woman are portrayed her. This egotistical comment could be used as a summary of Donne’s attitude towards the sun and opposite attitude towards the woman throughout the poem.

A complicated rhyme scheme is used I “The Sunne Rising”, but even this intricacy does not destroy Donne’s emotion in the poem. The rhyming pattern is A,B,B,A,C,D,C,D,E,E. The main theme of the poem is his lust, passion and craving for eroticism alone with the woman and his derogatory attitude towards the sun for always “watching” him do so. His character in the poem comes across as a conceited, disdainful, egotistical and somewhat pompous individual, but an individual with great feelings towards his woman.

His use of language, for example the “thy” and “thine” form show he is offending the sun by using a form of speech that was spoken to people you know very well or people you feel are inferior to you. In this situation, it is the latter, because he is showing a constant lack of respect for the sun. Also, on occasions during the poem he uses monosyllabic lines, which show his anger towards something. This kind of intonation patter appears on this line where he is being dismissive towards the sun.

” Nor houres, dayes, months, which are the rags if time. ”

Donne is dismissive towards many items or people during the course of the poem, including royalty. Everything else, he believes, apart from he and the woman, is insignificant in “The Sunne Rising”.


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