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Vesalius. 2005 Jun;11(1):33-7.

"The Purple Island" of Phineas Fletcher: allusions to the anatomy of the human body in English poetry up to the end of the seventeenth century.


The Bible declared that God created man in His own image. The concept that this divine pattern occurred not only in Man (the Microcosm), but was eternally repeated throughout Creation in the Macrocosm (Universe) and the Geocosm (Earth), was the basis of the important Doctrine of Correspondences, in which similarities were sought between man and nature, (e.g. the comparable morphology of a human brain and a walnut). This article outlines the relevance of this concept in early herbal medicine. Contemporary poems describing correspondences to the anatomy of the human body are the examined, in particular The Purple Island, by Phineas Fletcher. The Reverend Phineas Fletcher (1582 - 1650) was an English metaphysical poet and The Purple Island (1633), his most famous work, was an epic poem describing the anatomy of the human body in allegorical terms. It is compared to an island, with veins and arteries as purple rivers flowing through the chief cities of Liver, Heart and Braine. This has been acknowledged as one of the best and also one of the last great examples of the tradition of poetic correspondence in English literature.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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