An Anatomy Of The World: The First Anniversary Quotes

John Donne

"New Philosophy Calls All In Doubt"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In the death of Mistress Elizabeth Drury in 1610, at the age of fifteen years, John Donne sees the frailty and decay of the whole world. When God made man and the world, he made them good, but Eve corrupted them, and since her time, they have steadily deteriorated. Life, which was once long, has become short; mankind has shrunk from his earlier heroic stature to a pigmy size. Animals have degenerated; climate has worsened. And a new philosophy, the Copernican theory of the revolution of the earth around the sun, has completely upset man's conception of his position in the cosmos. Under the Ptolemaic theory of astronomy, the earth was the center of the universe, and man, king of the earth, was by extension king of the universe. But the Copernican theory made the earth an insignificant satellite of an unimportant star, one of millions, and robbed man of his former glory. This theory thoroughly upset nearly all natural philosophy. The only thing men were sure of was that they had to begin afresh their pursuit of knowledge. Donne says:

And new philosophy calls all in doubt;
The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost, and th' earth, and no man's wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.