METALS AND SUBSTANCES
Turning to Donne's images from metals and substances, we approach them, I think, with the expectation that they will tell us something concerning the writer's sensory reactions--as Professor Spurgeon learned, by the examination of similar sources, of Shakespeare's interest in the texture of things and Marlowe's attraction to their gleam and glitter. But any such expectation meets with disappointment, for Donne's imagination, we soon find, takes an entirely different direction. Converting what might have been an excursion into sense impressions into the outlines of another image-treatise on the technical, he turns not to the feel or appearance of metals and substances but to theories concerning their properties and nature. It is a tendency that fits perfectly into the pattern we have already discerned.
Although the images on which this chapter is based will ostensibly be dealt with as they fall under the headings of metals (or minerals) and substances, we actually find that the first of these narrows itself down to a study of Donne's figures from gold; for Donne in his imagery seeks out the precious yellow metal like an Elizabethan explorer and expounds its virtues with the zeal of an early economist. We have already observed in the chapters on "Medicine and Alchemy" and on "Commerce and Coinage" the conspicuous part played in Donne's imagery by theories involving this metal--particularly in the section on the alchemical transmutation of base metals and in that on mintage and the relative values of coined metals--but