Metaphysical Poetry | Metaphysical Poetry Chief Characteristics


Metaphysical Poetry| Metaphysical Poetry Chief Characteristics

Metaphysical Poetry | Metaphysical Poetry Chief Characteristics

Metaphysical Poetry

At the nick end of the sixteenth century as well as in the first half of the seventeenth century there came out a group of English poets that include John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, Henry Vaughan, Richard Crashaw, John Cleveland, Abraham Cowley and a few others who were termed as Metaphysical Poets. The term ‘Metaphysical’ was first used by John Dryden in his book entitled ‘Discourse on Satire’. In regard to John Donne, he said, “he (John Donne) affects the metaphysics not only in his satires but also in his amorous verses”. Later on, Dr. Johnson used the label ‘Metaphysical’ for all the poets of this group headed by John Done. Since then this group of poets has been being blindly called ‘Metaphysical Poets’. The term ‘Metaphysical’ refers to something beyond the physical world. The themes of love, God, death, angel, hell, vice, virtue, etc. which are beyond our physical perception are called Metaphysical. There is no denying the fact that these early seventeenth-century English poets dealt with metaphysical themes in their poetry. But here a question arises that there is ample use of metaphysical themes in the sonnets of Shakespeare and Spencer, in The Paradise Lost of John Milton, in The Essays on Man by Alexander Pope and in some others. Then why are they not called Metaphysical Poets? This question still remains unsettled. But whatsoever the denomination is for this group of early seventeenth-century English poets, the main feature which distinguishes this school of poets from other poets dealing with the same themes is that this group of poets headed by John Donne added ingenious intellectual reasoning (arguments) to the conventional metaphysical themes. Their arguments are highly fantastic, far-fetched, fanciful and learned made up of hyperbolic similes and metaphors which are called Metaphysical Conceits. They used conceits not for mere decoration but as arguments to illustrate, elaborate, persuade or prove a point of view. In this respect, it is better and reasonable to denominate their poetry as Poetry of Arguments or Poetry of Conceit or Poetry of Reasoning. Though the treatment of the themes of their poetry differs something from each other, yet there are some features that are found apparently common either much or less to their poems which may be classified as thematic features and stylistic features. Thematically they dealt with these metaphysical themes of love and religion (especially the creed of the Christian Religion) and stylistically their poetry is featured by the use of conceits which are highly fantastic, learned (that makes a unique blend of emotion and intellect) humor, pun, wit, epigrams, dramatic note and concrete words and phrases. 0 0 0.


N. B. The article originally belongs to the book entitled ‘Menonimus Dictionary of Literary Terms.

Books on Literary Criticism by M. Menonimus:

  1. World Short Story Criticism
  2. World Poetry Criticism
  3. World Drama Criticism
  4. World Novel Criticism
  5. World Essay Criticism
  6. Indian English Poetry Criticism
  7. Indian English Poets and Poetry Chief Features
  8. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  9. Walt Whitman’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  10. Critical Essays on English Poetry
  11. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: Return of the Spirit-An Analytical Study
  12. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf’-An Analytical Study
  13. Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories
  14. A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Pre-Islamic Period (500 AD-622 AD)
  15. A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Early Islamic Period (622 AD-661 AD) …

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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