Donne's Imagery: A Study in Creative Sources

By Milton Allan Rugoff | Go to book overview

IDEAS OF THE UNIVERSE
III

In 1543, with relatively little heralding or fanfare, the De revolutionibus orbium coelestium of Nicholas Copernicus was published by his disciple Rheticus, and lit a flame that was to explode into one of the most revolutionary of scientific doctrines and the most exciting intellectual heresy of the Renaissance. Reaching with the cosmic reach of astronomical calculation into the whirling maze of the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic universe, the Polish priest stopped the sun, eliminated a multitude of planetary movements, loosed the earth from its age-old anchorage at the centre of things, and flung it, rotating and revolving, into space.

When Copernicus died others--and notably such English scientists as John Dee, Robert Recorde, Thomas Digges, and William Gilbert*--picked up the torch he had lit, and carried it forward into those obscure places where the authority of Aristotle and Ptolemy still reigned absolute. But the final blow was not struck until Galileo brought to bear the direct observations of his magical "glass"--the telescope. In 1610, in his Siderius Nuncius, he published the results of his scrutinies of the skies and turned the torch of Copernicus into a veritable beacon that illuminated the new universe for all who had eyes to see and minds to accept.

A man who was possessed, like Donne, of an "hydroptique immoderate desire of humane learning," to use his own words, could hardly help following with the greatest

____________________
*
See Francis R. Johnson Astronomical Thought in Renaissance England, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1937.

-29-

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Donne's Imagery: A Study in Creative Sources
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 5
  • Acknowledgment 7
  • Contents 9
  • Introduction 11
  • I - The Image and Its Significance 13
  • II - The Nature of the Evidence 20
  • III - III 29
  • IV - Medicine and Alchemy 47
  • V - Geometry and the Circle 64
  • VI - Law Courts and Prisons 74
  • VII - Religion and the Bible 83
  • VIII - Myth and Classical Story 96
  • IX 103
  • X - Domestic Life 113
  • XI - Sports and Games 125
  • XIII - Commerce and Coinage 144
  • XIV - King, State, and War 151
  • XV - Metals and Substances 163
  • XVI - Men and Characteristics 169
  • XVIII - The Heavens 195
  • XIX - Rivers and Seas 201
  • XX - Animals--Real and Fabulous 207
  • Conclusion 215
  • XXI - Comparisons and Interpretations 217
  • Appendix - Table of Sources 247
  • Key to Abbreviation Used in References To Donne's Works 249
  • References to Donne's Works 250
  • Index 267
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