‘Did we lie downe, because ’twas night?’
John Donne, George Chapman and the senses of night in the 1590s
in The senses in early modern England, 1558–1660

This chapter investigates the place of the senses in understandings of light, dark and shadow in the post-Reformation period, using the evidence of the writings of two contrasting poets, John Donne and George Chapman. It discusses Donne's will, where he disposes of his personal time keeping technology. The specificity of Donne's use of light, dark and shadow can be seen more clearly in comparison with Chapman's 'The Shadow of Night'. In 'A Nocturnall Upon St. Lucie's Day', the senses are interwoven with alchemical language and an elaboration, even multiplication, of the absence of light, the world of dark. The 'Hymnus in Noctem' explores night in terms of the senses, but also derives substantial sections from Natale Comes's allegorical fables. The Skeptick circulating in the 1590s is an indication of vernacular debate on the role of the senses, and sensory experience, in producing knowledge.

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