A Book of Answers III: The Sun And Mr John Donne


Ben Jonson was a friend of Jack Donne, and he might easily have been tempted to write the following reply, for he had a strong sense of the absurd. Donne’s poem, splendid as it is, is also splendidly absurd and is indeed meant to be so. It displays that truth to nature which we are told all great poems should have, but it is not true of the way the world really is, rather to the way a man happily and triumphantly in love feels about the world. And this is a very important sort of truth, but I feel the sun was entitled to a reply and young Mr Donne had laid himself wide open to it.

The Sunne Rising

Busie old foole, unruly Sunne,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windowes, and through curtaines call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers seasons run?
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;
Love, all alike, no season knowes, nor clyme,
Nor houres, dayes, moneths, which are the rags of time.

Thy beames, so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou thinke?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a winke,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Looke, and to morrow late, tell mee,
Whether both the India’s of spice and Myne
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with mee.
Aske for those Kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt heare, All here in one bed lay.

She’is all States, and all Princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes doe but play us; compar’d to this,
All honor’s mimique; All wealth alchimie;
Thou sunne art halfe as happy’as wee,
In that the world’s contracted thus.
Thine age askes ease, and since thy duties bee
To warme the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art every where;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy spheare.

The Sun’s Answer To Mr Donne

Idle young foole, unruly Donne,
Why must thou thus
Through windowes and through curtaines rail at us?
Must the great Globe to thy light fancies run?
Saucy young slug-abed, goe chide
Thine owne impatience yesternight.
Hadst thou not been so hott to mount and ride,
Those curtains drawne had made a lasting night.
Why, for that matter, all this coil, since thou
Hast but to rise, young sir, and drawe them now.

Thy tropes so brilliant and so fine
Why shouldst thou thinke?
Conceits so stale, poor poet, they fust and stinke:
Winkes that eclipse; fair eyes that dazzle mine.
When thou hast blusht, look forth and see
Both Indias bide, Kings keep their thrones,
But over all the world, in bedde like thee,
How many young rogues, how many love-sick drones
Spin thriftless rhymes and, fondling a warm titt,
Addle their brains with metaphysical witte.

Nay, more, there’s one close by thee, lad,
Like thee runs on:
He’s the Great Turk, Sophy and Cham in one
Yet lies in chaines and straw and is horne-madde.
Th’inke, of green rascals, thou art not
The first to get a wench to bed,
Nor, who, to make her laugh, his bolt being shot,
With crazy boasts and phansies filled her head.
But stay to warm ye both? Nay Jack, goe to!
Thou mayst rant on, but I have work to doe.

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