This poem tells a story of a woman who is in love with a busy man. The woman wakes up in the morning with a man by her side. Yet, the man cannot stay because he is busy. The speaker says that business is the disease of love. The theme is that a busy man may put his business above love.
Donne starts the poem by describing the day, “’Tis true, ‘tis day, what though it be?” (1). The woman knows it is the day. She does not yet know what this day will bring though. Will her husband stay or go? Donne presents us with a mindboggling thought next: “Why should we rise because ‘tis light” (3). Why does love have to part when the day breaks? The woman wants to stay with her loved one all day, but that is not what her husband will do.
Donne contrasts love and light: “Love which in spite of darkness brought us hither/ Should, in despite of light, keep us together” (6). Donne states that just because the sun is up does not mean the couple has to part. The contrasts here are very interesting. Donne uses the words love and darkness together positively because love and darkness brought the couple together. This is against darkness’s usual association with a negative connotation. In the next line light is compared with keeping the couple together. The break of the daylight brings the couple apart because the husband has to go to work. It is an interesting contrast because the light, which is associated with positive words and feelings actually brings the husband and wife apart. While the darkness brings them together again.
In the next stanza Donne goes into a deeper description of light. He says that it has “no tongue, but is all eye” (7), and “If it could speak […] This were the worst that it could say” (8-9). The husband leaves the love that he and his wife shared in the night. This is the worst that light can say because it takes the couple apart. It is interesting how he first says that light has no tongue, but then he states what light would say. I believe he does this to dramatize that this is the worst thing light can do.
The man’s business keeps him from staying with his love all day. The speaker calls business “the worst disease of love” (14). He uses disease here to show how business breaks apart love from the inside out. Business seems beneficial in words, but in actuality it slowly breaks down love. The speaker goes so far as saying a mean is business is as “wrong as when a married man doth woo” (18). This is an extreme comparison. The author states that business is as wrong as cheating. He does this to state that since business takes away so much time from love it takes away the unity in the marriage. Business may make a man forget his wife which is compared to what cheating does to a man.