Here is the first poem I ever close read. Yes, I read Whitman in high school, and Longfellow, and a few others. But that was reading. It was not CLOSE reading. It was not analysis. That came in college, in the class of Professor Andy Pawelczak at Passaic County Community College in my hometown of Paterson.

You have to be a pretty bold motherfucker to call the sun a busy old fool. The sun is the thing that keeps us waking up for work and school, and making love to our lovers at night. The sun is the thing that lights the way from place to place. And Donne is too busy macking to give a shit. “She’s all states, and all princes, I. Nothing else is. Princes do but play us.” He dismisses the sun. He taunts the sun. He tells the sun, why you wasting your time, sun? Shine here, and you good! Why? Because he is postcoital, sun. He’s the prince. Shit…he’s Prince!

And here’s the thing you have to remember about Donne: HE WAS A PRIEST. Granted, it was the church of England, which is a bit like Catholic-Lite, but still. Try to imagine your pastor writing about waking up with his lover and basically telling the sun to kick rocks. No way to tell if he wrote this as a priest, or in his younger days as a lapsed Catholic, but either way, they would have dug up mad shit on his Twitter feed. And this was the early 1600’s. This was the closest they came to Cinemax after dark. (Well, okay, not the closest. But it was still pretty damn sexy.)

               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 tomorrow late, tell me,
         Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
         Be where thou leftst 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 honor’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.
-John Donne
(coming soon to an erotic open mic near you)
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