What is metaphysical poetry? Poets and characteristics of metaphysical poetry (2023)

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We will take a closer look at the history of the term"Metaphysical Poetry"and some examples of this strange and enigmatic school of early modern poetry in this post. Extensive similes and metaphors, extended poetic imaginations and paradoxes, informal speech, and an interest in examining the interaction between the physical and spiritual worlds (and between the big and the small) are all common features of the metaphysical poetry we will discuss here short introduction.

What is metaphysical poetry? Poets and characteristics of metaphysical poetry (1)

The term"metaphysisch"comes from the latter: from metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that studies, among other things, the connection between spirit and matter, or between human consciousness and the physical world. Oddly enough, the word"metaphysisch"comes from the Greek word for "after physics", but more precisely it means "after Aristotle's work on physics". This is probably because philosophy students should not delve into the more complex and abstract world of metaphysics until they have mastered Aristotle on Physics.)

John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, and Henry Vaughan are poets associated with metaphysical poetry. It is said that John Donne was the first metaphysical poet. Donne's genius for original, intellectually challenging poetry certainly helped set the standard for later poetry. Donne began writing in the late 16th century, but metaphysical poetry peaked in the following century.)

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Poetic Metaphysics: Features and Characteristics The following are important features of metaphysical poetry: difficult mental and emotional situations; metaphors and similes that are unusual and sometimes intentionally invented; and the idea that the spiritual and physical worlds are interconnected.

Metaphysical poets often give concrete form to abstract ideas through their unusual imagery and comparisons because they are interested in the interaction between the world of mind (or spirit or soul) and the physical world "out there". So for exampleAndreas Marvell(1621–1788) wrote in his poem"The Definition of Love"on how he and his lover, despite being meant for each other, are doomed to never be together:

Weird love ones can greet each other from every angle,

just like lines

But our own so really the same

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However, endless can never meet.

Therefore, the connection of spirit and the contrast of stars is love that unites us, but fate so enviously excludes us.

Is this an illustration of "Star-Crossed Lovers" as in Romeo and Juliet? Although Marvell doesn't state the reasons why he and his love are unable to consummate their relationship, he cleverly uses the image of two parallel lines to convey the idea that although they are a perfect match, they cannot be one. You see, parallel lines match perfectly because they are parallel, i.e. on the same path, but they cannot meet because they are parallel.

cool right? The two lovers in Marvell's poem are parallel lines because they are of the same sex; However, since homosexual love was outlawed in the 17th century, according to some critics, they are never allowed to "meet."

However, Marvell has cleverly given concrete form to an abstract dilemma, regardless of how we interpret the image. Furthermore, the love of the paradox in metaphysical poetry is perfectly captured in his poem: He and his love should be together, but because they are too "parallel" and "well matched" they will never be together.

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The Metaphysical Conceit A conceit is a kind of elaborate, expanded metaphor or analogy. Metaphysical poets often use conceits - unusual or unexpected analogies, metaphors, or similes - as a kind of extended metaphor.Hence John Donne (pictured right) uses the conceit that the flea bites him first and then his lover to justify their sleeping together in his magnificent seductive poem The Flea: The flea that shares her blood, has already brought them closer together :

Just look at this flea and realize how little of what you deny about me is in it.

First it sucked me dry, and now it's sucking you dry, mixing our blood into that flea;

You are aware that this cannot be called a sin, shame or loss of virginity; however, he loves to court and is spoiled with a blood of two, which unfortunately is more than we would do.

In other words, according to Donne, the fact that the two sucked on a flea does not constitute a "sin" and does not inspire shame in them. So why is it considered a sin to share a bed with another person? Donne uses the flea's conceit to convey an extended argument, spanning the entire poem, designed to convince the woman to go to bed with him.

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The informal language used in many metaphysical poems is another thing that sets them apart from other verses of the time. Although John Donnes"The Canonization"shows how some metaphysical poets made good use of colloquialisms, not all metaphysical poets used a more informal or colloquialism in their works:

Shut up for God's sake, and let me love or blame my paralysis, or my gout, or my five gray hairs, or my ruined fortune. With wealth your condition improves and your spirit improves with art. Take you to a class, get a spot. Observe his honor, grace or the real or embossed face of the king. Hold; approve of what you want and you make me love.

Donne's speech here, as evidenced by phrases like "For God's sake" and "Whatever you want," is daringly down-to-earth for a poem written four hundred years ago. While it may not seem particularly chatty to us now, Donne's speech here is daringly down-to-earth for a poem written four hundred years ago.

The use of elaborate and complex conceits in metaphysical poetry is somewhat at odds with such direct, unambiguous language, but this argument makes both even more surprising and powerful.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784),in his critical biography of the 17th-century poet Abraham Cowley in Johnson's Lives of the Poets (1779-84) popularized the term"Metaphysical Poets,' but he didn't invent it. John Dryden, writing about the "metaphysics" of Donne's poetry before Johnson in 1692, and William Drummond of Hawthornden, writing about a group of poets about 1630, also used the term.Samuel Johnson used the term pejoratively: he complained that the poems of metaphysical poets "stand the scrutiny of the finger better than that of the ear" and disapproved of their "conceit". Johnson went on to write:


Violence connects the most diverse ideas; Nature and art are plucked out for allusions, comparisons and illustrations; teach and surprise their subtlety and intelligence; The reader, however, often finds his improvement priceless and, despite occasional admiration, is seldom satisfied. But great effort, guided by great skill, never quite goes away: while they often misjudged things, they occasionally discovered surprising truths: even if their ideas were far-fetched, they were often worth the walk.

Thus even Johnson, who was skeptical of metaphysical poetry because it seemed artificial and contrived, had to admit that metaphysical poets occasionally hit the mark and that their contrived imagery and conceit was often worth the trouble of deciphering and interpreting.Conclusion Thus, metaphysical poetry often explores or takes a position on "big" issues such as love, death, sex, the afterlife, or even what lies beyond our own world (Donne was particularly fond of using planetary imagery and the idea of ​​space travel in his work). Metaphysical poetry also frequently uses elaborate imagery, complex conceits, and informal speech. Johnson acknowledged that while it can be difficult at times, it's worth persevering with.


What is metaphysical poetry and poets? ›

A group of 17th-century poets whose works are marked by philosophical exploration, colloquial diction, ingenious conceits, irony, and metrically flexible lines.

What is metaphysical poetry short answer? ›

noun. : highly intellectualized poetry marked by bold and ingenious conceits, incongruous imagery, complexity and subtlety of thought, frequent use of paradox, and often by deliberate harshness or rigidity of expression.

What are the main characteristics of metaphysical poetry and illustrate how Donne is a metaphysical poet? ›

Novel thought and expressions, conceit, wit, obscurity and learning are the main characteristics of Metaphysical poetry. All these important characteristics are found in Donne's poetry. AS A METAPHYSICAL POET: When Dryden, Johnson and Dowden called Donne a metaphysical poet, they referred to the style of Donne.

What are the characteristics of metaphysical poetry of John Donne? ›

Metaphysical poetry is often characterised by the freshness and energy of its narrative voices. Questions – or interrogatives – are devices that Donne powerfully uses to achieve these qualities.

What are the characteristics of metaphysical poets? ›

The term Metaphysical poets was coined by the critic Samuel Johnson to describe a loose group of 17th-century English poets whose work was characterised by the inventive use of conceits, and by a greater emphasis on the spoken rather than lyrical quality of their verse.

What are the characteristics of metaphysics? ›

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality; the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, cause and effect, necessity and possibility. Metaphysics is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with epistemology, logic, and ethics.


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