What is metaphysical poetry and its properties? - literary times (2023)

The term "metaphysical" was used by a number of English poets in the first half of the 17th century, notably Donne, Carew, George Herbert, Crashaw, Henry Vaughan, and Abraham Cowley. This term was first used by Drummond of Hawthornden in a letter to Arthur Johnson (1630), an alter of Dyrden and Johnson. However, the term is not entirely happy, as it can give the impression that metaphysical poetry is discussing the nature of the universe, and this is evident in Dryden's statement to the Earl of Dorset:“Donne brings metaphysics not only in his satires, but also in his love verses, in which only nature should reign; and he boggles the minds of the fair sex with good speculations on philosophy, when to occupy their ears, and things like Milton does in Paradise Lost, or Pope in The Essay on Man, or Tennyson in In Memoriam.They just use beautiful speculations to express and define an emotion.

Characteristics of metaphysical poetry

Intellectual and analytical basis

Metaphysical poetry is predominantly intellectual and analytical. In it an emotion or feeling is expressed through the work of the intellect. Sometimes the poet's intellect seems to dominate his feelings so much that they lose sight of them altogether. The poets who wrote successfully in the metaphysical style were all intellectual and analytical, though they varied greatly in the scope and depth of their thoughts. For example, Donne, the leader of the metaphysical, connects a broader range of ideas in Barter My Heart and explores a more complex state of mind than Herbert in Affliction. But both are analysis of emotions. Due to this analytical habit, metaphysical poets preferred to use words that involved the intellect rather than those that appealed to the senses:

“They showed maps to other worlds in the world
Let's own in the world, everyone has one and in one."
(The good day)

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We recognize that the words in such lines have more than their normal mundane meaning, but they do not appeal to meaning or emotion, but to something more like the ability to understand a mathematical problem. An intellectual bias affects not only his choice of words and images, but also the form of his poems and their rhythmic effects. There is no denying that metaphysical poetry affects a feeling or an emotion experienced by the poet, but this movement is expressed as freely, directly, and elegantly as in the poetry of Wordsworth or Shelley or Keats: it is like R.J. rees says"filtered and processed, as it were, through meditation and subject to the workings of the intellect."The metaphysical term refers to species rather than matter.

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Novelty in the expression and thought and adoration of rejected women

Metaphysical poets intended to say something that had never been said before, was natural and appropriate. They strove to be unique in their minds and ignored their ownership. They wanted to get away from the tired and traditional ideas and forms that Petrarch left for generations of poets. Whereas the Elizabethan poets were content to compare a pair of lovers to a pair of doves, in A Valediction Forbiding Mourning Donne compared them to a pair of compasses. Poets cultivated by the Petrarchan tradition used to refer to teary eyes as "famous"; but Crashaw bids farewell to this ancient poetic tradition, thus describing the eyes of the grieving Mary Magdalene:

"Two walk baths, two crying movements,
Portable and expansive oceans”.

The Metaphysician also rejected the cult of worship of women and did not consider women as goddesses worthy of worship, but presented them simply as fickle and unfaithful creatures of flesh and blood, planting colorful flowers and planting the seeds of fresh flowers but unsightly

Similes and unlikely metaphors (concepts)

Metaphysical poetry is full of similes and implausible metaphors commonly known as "imaginations." We meet her often."a combination of different images, or the discovery of hidden similarities in apparently different things." (Johnson).Metaphysical poets search the entire world of art and nature for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions. TS Eliot has pointed out that metaphysical poetry is characterized by the elaboration of a language to the most advanced state to which wit can take it. In the row:

"While my doctors grew through their love
Cosmographers and I your map, they lie
Lying on the bed.

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We are similarities between things that seem disparate, between doctors and cosmographers and between the patient and the medical record. This geographical metaphor impresses us more for its ingenuity than for its adequacy. Cowley in The Given Heart compares a lover's heart to a hand grenade, which is fantastic and amazing; we wonder how this image entered the poet's mind:

Woe to your stubborn heart if mine comes
in the same room
"Until it breaks and explodes
Like a grenade fired at a magazine.

Combination of heterogeneous thoughts.

In metaphysical poetry the most heterogeneous ideas and thoughts are violently united. See Donne's poem "Anniversarie". The poem is the celebration of a love that turns one year old. It is triumphant love that resists the decadence and decadence that earthly things inherit. Suddenly, the thought of death overshadows the poet's joyful mood, imagining the lovers rotting in their respective graves. Soon the poet rises to the idea of ​​eternal love, so in this poem the most heterogeneous ideas are almost violently united,

nonsense and exaggerations

Images, like the ideas of metaphysical poets, bear the stamp of absurdity and exaggeration. If we find a poet of the quality of Cowley comparing the love of different women to journeys through different countries (The Welcome), or Donne comparing a good man to a telescope, or Cowley apostrophizing beauty:

"You tyrant, who does not free man!
You subtle thief from whom nothing can be safe!
Your murderer who killed you and the devil
Which would
Damn!" (Beautiful)

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We can see in frenzied absurdities and exaggerations that English poetry was for a time deluded by a metaphysical addiction to writing something strange and new and surprising. as doctor johnson says“What they wanted from the sublime, however, they tried to supply with exaggeration; The reinforcement of him knew no limits; They left behind not only reason but also imagination: and they produced combinations of confused splendor that could not only be attributed, but could not even be imagined.The absurdity of metaphysical poetry is evident in the way its followers connect the abstract with the concrete, the distant with the near, the physical with the spiritual, the finite with the infinite, and the sublime with the mundane.

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Strongly emotional style

In metaphysical poetry, emotions are shaped and expressed through logical thought, and both sound and image serve this purpose. Words dedicated to poetry are avoided because these words are charged with accumulated emotions."Like Wordsworth, they prefer words in everyday use, but their practice goes beyond their theory. Wordsworth suggested using "the natural language of passionate feeling," but metaphysical poets use the natural language of men when engaged soberly to commerce or scientific speculation, so that the words themselves, apart from their meaning in context, are meaningless".Unlike the Elizabethan poets, they do not use simple or soulful rhythms; The rhythms they use are as complicated as their thoughts, and their function is to stimulate the intellect. They don't care about the rules of accent and intonation, so Ben Johnson said that Donne deserved to be hanged for not keeping his accent.


The charge of lack of clarity is commonly and not unfairly leveled against the metaphysician. Metaphysical poetry is as difficult to understand as Browning's, which is a great mystery to readers. The obscurity of the metaphysical poets comes from their attempt to say too much instead of saying too little. They introduce a new thought into the old one, even before it has time to express itself. The rapidity with which one thought follows another is surprising and confusing, with the result that readers fail to grasp its full meaning. They analyze things that are beyond common understanding. They use terms and expressions that are not familiar to everyone except specialists in geography, science and medicine in all these areas of knowledge. They see things from a myriad of perspectives, but only hint at each view, and the reader tries to learn the exact nature of the view.

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