Vol. 4 No. 2 March 2013
Academic Research International
DONNE’S METAPHYSICAL POETRY: A NEW THEORY OF LOVE
Department of English, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, PAKISTAN.
Generally, Donne is read and taught as a metaphysical poet and not a theorist. The paper aims to present Donne as a theorist of love, and discusses multidimensional aspects of his theory implicitly presented in his poetry. Through thematic analysis of his poetry, his theory can be established on various key points, of which ardent, platonic, spiritual, carnal, cynical, brutal, flirtatious and venomous ones are significant.
Keywords: Donne, metaphysical poetry, women’s love
As a point of departure, English poetry may be divided into different ages for the convenience of study; for instance, Anglo-Saxon poetry, classical poetry, neoclassical poetry, metaphysical poetry, romantic poetry, modern poetry and so forth. Strictly speaking, metaphysical poetry does not represent to an age rather it is a distinctive school of thought that is distinguished with other trends of poetry by salient features that are the recognizing points of the school of poetry of which John Donne is the leading star. The sort of lyrical poetry of the school was highly intellectual and was written in 17th century England. Besides Donne, some other poets are also listed in this school like George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, Robert Southwell, Richard Crashaw, Thomas Traherne, and Henry Vaughan but they are just followers to Donne and cannot claim to equalize Donne in any way. Donne’s poetry is associated to so-called “metaphysical type of poetry.” In the outset of the discussion, it would not be inappropriate to interpret the word metaphysical and to probe the origin of what is called metaphysical poetry. Grierson (1921) defines metaphysical poetry in such words: “a poetry which, like that of the Divina Commedia, the De Nature Rerum, perhaps Goethe’s Faust, has been inspired by a philosophical conception of the universe and the role assigned to the human spirit in the great drama of existence.” Donne was not a conscious reviver of Dante’s metaphysics and consequently this definition does not throw much light on the nature of metaphysical poetry. In this context, Bennet (1953) writes, “the term ‘metaphysical’ as applied to a group of poets who wrote under the influence of John Donne, has been consecrated by the use since Dryden first employed it.” Now henceforth we shall examine as to how Dryden used this term. Dryden (quoted in Gardner, 1957, p.15) says of John Donne, “He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign.” Dryden further says that Donne perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he would engage their hearts and entertain them with the softness of love.
It is not altogether a happy term as it is conceived this label was used derogatively. And moreover that calling them metaphysical poets is mere accidental because metaphysics means the philosophy of knowledge and existence and Donne’s poetry does not deal with philosophy in a serious customary way. In fact, they more appropriately can be called www.journals.savap.org.pk
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ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944
P art-II: Social Sciences and Humanities
Vol. 4 No. 2 March 2013
argumentative or dialectical poets. Especially Donne’s poetry is affluent with scholastic and fantastic style rather than philosophy.
It is neither the content nor the form but style that gives it the name. Their style was distinguished by witticism, casuistry and metaphysical conceits that are realized by farfetched or eccentric similes o r metaphors, such as in Donne’s comparison of tear with a coin. Strange paradoxes, far-fetched imagery and the use of quasi-logic are...