The student of imagery taken from the arts by an Elizabethan writer must keep in mind the fact that there was throughout Elisabeth's time a certain disparity in the progress of the various arts. Drama and poetry flourished as they never had before, the advance of music, although considerable, was somewhat less spectacular, while painting and sculpture showed only moderate life. In the visual arts, in fact, England lagged far behind Italy and the Netherlands, and appreciation of them--in the modern sense of the word--seems to have undergone no extraordinary development in Elisabeth's time. Naturally Donne's taste was conditioned by theme facts; if they do not explain his interests they at least supply the perspective in which they must be viewed.
Turning first to his images from music we find that there are about thirty of them but that they are drawn not so much from the simple and sensuous aspects of the art as from technicalities -- technicalities having, in some instances, more to do with the physics of sound and the construction of instruments than with music itself. In fact, in the few figures that are not concerned with such technical matters, the only ideas drawn on more than once are those of harmony and its embodiment in the tuned instrument. Such a revelatory simile as occurred when he wrote to Sir Henry Goodere, "Let falshood like a discord anger you,"1 is unusual; much more typical are such broad images as that in which he describes the world as an organ and Elizabeth Drury as one of those spirits which