Today, we have a thorough understanding of the structure of our universe. We know that the earth is round, is the third planet from the sun, and the sun is the center of our universe. We also know that the space around our universe simply goes on forever - it is infinite. We know a great deal more, but these are the basics, and it is these fundamental facts that took humans so long to truly understand. It took mankind thousands of years of study and observation to accurately know the universe, and throughout those years, many false theories were offered.
John Donne (1572-1631 A.C.E.) is a poet best known for his use of metaphysical conceits . His poetry and prose reflect a deep knowledge and understanding of theology, astronomy, law and alchemy (The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 1233). During Donne's lifetime, the Copernican Revolution erupted around him -- he refers to both the old and the emerging astronomy theories: the Ptolemaic vs.
the Copernican universe. In his poetry especially, Donne uses grandiose expression to describe what his speaker is feeling. Astronomical theory, therefore, with it's elaborate and infinite construction, presented itself as a perfect conceit for Donne.
Ancient Greek astronomers developed the first theories on the structure of the universe. Plato (428-327 B.C.E.) had believed that a circle was the perfect shape and the universe was comprised of concentric spheres surrounding the earth; the planets, sun and moon circled the earth, following uniform circular motion (Seeds 46). It was also believed that our universe was hierarchal, divided into 2 separate parts: the Earth and the Heavens. The separate spheres were comprised of the basic elements of earth, water, air, and fire. The earth was within what was known as the sublunary sphere: that which was enclosed by the...