John Donne’s “Break of Day”

The speaker in the poem is a woman. She wakes up in the morning with her lover. She is upset that he must rise and leave her to go about his usual busy day. She says they should not allow themselves to be controlled so easily, sleeping when it is night and waking when it is light. Their love should be strong enough to keep them together despite the daylight. The first four lines are rhetorical questions. The use of rhetorical questions emphasizes how she is questioning adhering to the normal routine and following daylight and how she dislikes it.

The poem then personifies light, stating that although “light hath no tongue” and cannot speak, it watches and spies on them. There is a metaphor comparing the sun to an eye. The woman says her lover has her heart and her honor, and that if she were in his place, she would not leave him.

The third and final stanza begins with an apostrophe directed to her lover. She asks if his business must take him away from her. It is also a rhetorical question because she does not expect an answer from him. Her exclamation “O!” displays how sad and distraught she is. She says love can be found for and with almost anyone- poor people, foul people, false (unfaithful) people, and everything else negative- but not busy men. Business is “the worst disease of love.” This is another metaphor, comparing love to a disease. The poem ends with a simile that says it is wrong for busy men to make love as it is wrong for married men to woo other women.

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The theme of this poem is that busy men should not love is their work is more important to them than women. The speaker is disappointed that he must leave, although it must happen every morning. Throughout the entire poem, she is complaining about how he should not leave her and how she would never leave him if he wanted her to stay. In the last paragraph, she claims business is the worst thing for love, and then states her point, that men should not be with a woman if he is too busy to spend enough time with her.

Donne’s ‘Break of Day’ is a metaphysical poem. Some of the metaphysical traits it contains are its use of multiple literary devices and its psychological analysis of love.