Metaphysical poets, selected poems Contents
- Donne, John
- John Donne's early life
- John Donne - from Catholic to Protestant
- John Donne's marriage and its aftermath
- John Donne - The Reverend Dean
- Herbert, George
- Crashaw, Richard
- Vaughan, Henry
- Marvell, Andrew
- King, Henry
- Lovelace, Richard
- Cowley, Abraham
- Philips, Katherine
- Cleveland, John
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Literary context: ideas and innovations
- Aire and Angels
- A Hymn to God the Father
- A Hymn to God, my God, in my Sicknesse
- A Nocturnall upon St. Lucies day
- At the Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners
- A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Synopsis of Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Commentary on Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Language and tone in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Structure and versification in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Imagery and symbolism in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Themes in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- A Valediction: of Weeping
- Batter my heart
- Death be not Proud
- Elegie XIX: Going to Bed
- Elegie XVI: On his Mistris
- Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
- Lovers' Infiniteness
- Oh my blacke Soule!
- Satyre III: 'On Religion'
- Show me Deare Christ
- Since She Whom I Lov'd
- Song: Goe, and catche a falling starre
- The Anniversarie
- The Dreame
- The Extasie
- The Flea
- The Good-morrow
- The Sunne Rising
- This is my playes last scene
- Twicknam Garden
- What if this present
- Affliction I
- Easter Wings
- Jordan I
- Jordan II
- Love II
- Prayer I
- The Church-floore
- The Collar
- Hymn in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
- Hymn to St Teresa
- St Mary Magdalene, or the Weeper
- To the Countesse of Denbigh
- Ascension - Hymn
- The Night
- The Retreate
- The Water-fall
- A Dialogue between Soul and Body
- On a Drop of Dew
- The Coronet
- The Definition of Love
- The Garden
- The Mower Against Gardens
- The Mower to the Glo-Worms
- The Mower's Song
- The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun
- The Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers
- To his Coy Mistress
- Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax
What is Metaphysical poetry?
A term of abuse?
‘Metaphysical' is a strange name. Literally, it means:
- a certain branch of philosophy, to do with concepts like ‘Being' and ‘Knowing'
It addresses key questions such as What does it mean to exist? How do we know? How can we be sure we know? What can we know?
The Metaphysical poets never used this term of themselves. It was their successors, who did not much care for their poetry, who gave them and their poetry the name:
- John Dryden, a poet of Charles II's time, talks of John Donne ‘affecting the metaphysics not only in his satires but in his amorous verses.' Clearly he thought philosophical ideas were fine for satire (often quite intellectual verse) but not for love poetry.
- An eighteenth century critic and poet, Dr. Samuel Johnson, wrote the life of one of the minor poets of the group, and throughout the essay referred to the whole group as ‘Metaphysical poets'.
From then on, the name stuck.
Metaphysical poetry is not afraid of ideas and concepts. These may be philosophical, but they may also be to do with religion, or science, or politics, or mathematics. Metaphysical poetry sometimes uses these ideas as the main part of the argument of the poem; but they are also used as a source of imagery, to illustrate a point.
Intellect and feeling
In much Metaphysical poetry there is a debate going on, as in a law-court, in which a case is being made for or against somebody or something. The poems can have a considerable intellectual content but this does not mean that they are academic, boring, or without feeling. Most of the Metaphysical poets were also very passionate and very engaged emotionally but they managed to combine intellect and emotion, as good lawyers do in court.
Scan and go
Scan on your mobile for direct link.