Seamus Cooney

Sample paraphrase: Donne's "The Sun Rising"

I thought it would be useful to give you a sample paraphrase -- more elaborate, doubtless, than you might want to do, but still meant to serve as a model. Square brackets are meant to set off material that's not strictly in the poem but that I think is plainly implied, and the inclusion of which makes the sense flow more intelligibly. This poem is most definitely one in which we hear a speaker speaking, so the paraphrase too attempts to keep the effect of the speaking voice.

(I'll type in the text, bit by bit, to help make this easier to use.)


 		Busy old fool, unruly sun,
 		Why dost thou thus,
 	Through windows and through curtains call on us?
 
You interfering stupid old busybody, you, Sun, who obey no regular rules -- why are visiting us and waking us up like this, intruding on our privacy by coming in through the [room's] windows and the [bed's] curtains?
 	Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
 
Do you think that we lovers are obliged to adjust the growth and decay of our love, its [sexual] rise and fall, to your  movements [the way the physical world does]?
 		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; [...]
 
You impudent low fellow, presumptuously assuming the supreme importance of your rules [and schedule], be off with you to scold [more appropriate targets, such as] schoolboys who are late setting off for school and gloomy-looking ill-humored apprentices [reluctant to get up and begin their hard work for their masters]; or else go and tell [another kind of reluctant subordinate,] the men whose task it is to accompany the king on his morning hunts, that their master wants to hunt and so will require their services today; or else summon to their harvesting duties the poor ant-like drudges who live and work in the countryside.
 	Love all alike, no season knows nor clime,
 	Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
 
[All those are your appropriate objects of attention, but in contrast] Love is immune from from your interference, since it is unvarying and experiences neither climatic nor seasonal changes, neither waxing nor waning, growing never hotter, never colder: thus it has nothing to do with such contemptible trivia as hours, days, or months, the insignificant minute temporal particulars you have to be concerned with [in your role as time setter].
 		Thy beams so reverend and strong
 		Why shouldst thou think?
 
What on earth makes you think your light beams deserve any respect from us, or are all that powerful?
 	I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
 	But that I would not lose her sight so long;
 
Why, I could cover them over just as effectively as clouds or eclipses do merely by closing my eyes -- except that I'm unwilling to give up the sight of my beloved even for such a brief instant of time.
 	  If her eyes have not blinded thine,
 	  Look, and tomorrow late tell me,
 	Whether both th'Indias of spice and mine
 	Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
[Look at her!] If her dazzling eyes have not already put your sight out with their superior brightness and beauty, [be off with you around the world and] having looked it over, tell me when you come back again tomorrow -- but be sure not to come so early! -- whether it isn't true that both the East Indies, so rich in aromatic spices, and the West Indies, famed for their gold, have moved from their locations where you last saw them and are now lying here beside me, [incarnate in my mistress].
 	Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
 	And thou shalt hear, all here in one bed lay.
 
[Similarly,] when you inquire for the monarchs you saw in your round-the-world course yesterday, you'll be told that they are all now lying here, in this bed you're looking at, embodied in me!
 		She's all states, and all princes I,
 		Nothing else is.
 
Yes, she is the whole world to me, all its kingdoms rolled into one, and I myself am every monarch. [In fact, so completely are we each the whole world to the other that] nothing else even exists , not really.
 	Princes do but play us; compared to this,
 	All honor's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
 
[Oh yes, there are] kings and princes [in the world, but they] stand to us as mere actors do to the truly real figures they mimic. Indeed, in comparison with what we enjoy, every kind of external mark of rank or respect is ersatz, mere imitation, and every kind of riches as illusory as the fool's gold that alchemists claim to be able to make from base metal.
 		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.
 
[Thinking of this, I feel so satisfied I can even get over my irritation at your presence: you can stay, after all.] Indeed you, my dear sun, can feel happy too -- not, of course, as happy as we, but half as much, say. [Why?] Because, as I've explained to you, we encapsulate the entire world; you, being ancient, need to take it easy nowadays, and so, your task being to bring heat to the whole world, you can fulfill it quite easily simply by warming us.
 	Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
 	This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.
 
So go ahead, shine in on us, and in doing so you're shining everywhere. This bed is the center of the cosmos around which you rotate, and the walls of this room are the invisible sphere which holds you in the heavens.

(I may have rather overdone the supplying in square brackets of what's understood in this example: you needn't go that far if you don't want to. But it's certainly interesting to spell out the implicit connections of thought.)

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