Donne's Imagery: A Study in Creative Sources

By Milton Allan Rugoff | Go to book overview

XI
SPORTS AND GAMES

Concerning the sports and pastimes that interested most Elizabethan and Jacobean writers we know all too little. Among all the data that we may secure from auto­biographical passages or the biographical notes left by their contemporaries these activities usually receive the least attention. Therefore it is in such a direction that imagery offers us, I feel, really luminous clues. It may not be able to fill in the entire picture but it can certainly furnish us with a goodly number of significant details.

In Donne we find, all in all, no considerable imagina­tive interest in outdoor life or indoor sports. That he was acquainted with most of these and appreciated the fine points of a few is clear; but there is little indication that he was an ardent follower of such activities in general or a thorough student of any particular one. If there are any which may be said to have attracted his fancy particu­larly, they are the allied pastimes of falconry and fowl­ing. In one of the most arrogantly libertine passages in his songs he explains how he has gained complete control over love:

Thus I reclaim'd my buzard love, to flye At what, and when, and how, and where I chuse;
Now negligent of sport I lye,
And now as other Fawkners use,
I spring a mistresse, sweare, write, sigh and weepe:
And the game kill'd, or lost, goe talke, and sleepe.1

Here the image from bird-training is called to mind by

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