John Donne engages the subject of natural theology in his “secular” poetry as well as his Anniversaries, Essayes in Divinity, sermons, and Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, but this subject has received little critical attention. This essay places Donne in his early seventeenth-century context regarding natural theology before tracing his treatment of natural theology through his writings. Two conclusions can be drawn from this investigation: first, considering Donne biographically, while Donne shows a commitment to reading the “book of nature” throughout his career, his vocational turn in the years 1611–14 refocuses, reshapes, and intensifies that commitment. A skeptical and noncommittal attitude toward apprehension of the divine in the sensible world apparent in the Songs and Sonnets is replaced by a clearer and more hopeful tone in the Essayes, with Donne further developing his insights about the book of nature in his sermons and the Devotions. Second, I argue that Donne’s insights deserve to be included in serious studies of natural theology in seventeenth-century England, for Donne provides a modern poetic alternative to the way of reading the book of nature concurrently developed by Francis Bacon.


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pp. 124-158
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