ANIMALS--REAL AND FABULOUS
More a student of books than of nature itself, Donne in his images from animal life may be expected to reflect the reigning tradition in natural history as much as any actual observation. A glance at such books as Edward Topsell's The Histotic of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents ( 1607), John Maplet A. Greene Forest, or a Naturall Historie ( 1567), or, perhaps more significant than these, a literary work like Lyly Euphues, shows just how popular the unnatural natural history of the elder Pliny and of Aristotle still was. The most incredibility fantastic tales concerning real animals as well as entirely non- existent creatures were everywhere prevalent, and even a Sir Thomas Browne, as late as 1646, bringing some scientific training and not a little skepticism to bear, could puncture only the most outlandish of these.
Several images do suggest that Donne, like many Elizabethans, probably did have some experience with those animals or birds which were used in popular sports-- with stag, dog, hawk, and game bird--those, in fact, that we have already dealt with in connection with the sports of which they are an essential part.*
Of the animals symbols from the Bible only a few--and these the most familiar--appear: the serpent standing for wiliness, the dove for mildness, and the lamb for Christ.1
In addition, there are, almost as a matter of course, the conventional metaphors alluding to the lechery of the goat, the cunning of the fox, the mimicry of the ape, the kingly____________________