THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE METAPHYSICAL POETRY
ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN DONNE
The term "metaphysical poetry" is used to describe a certain type of 17th century poetry. Metaphysical poetry is concerned with the whole experience of man. It means that the poetry is about showing knowledge and thoughts from different areas of experience, especially about love, romantic and sensual; about man's relationship with God and about pleasure, learning and art.
Metaphysical poems are lyric poems characterised by use of wit, irony and wordplay. Wit and conceit were both aspects of a mental set shared by writers looking for connections between things. As well as manipulation of ideas, wit could be displayed in verbal expression. Compression and brevity were part of a poetic fashion called "strong lines". Wordplay and brevity were all aspects of "wit". Conceit is a poetic idea, usually a metaphor. There can be conventional ideas, where there are expected metaphors. It is an idea or concept expressed in a unusual way. Typical metaphysical conceits come from a wide variety of areas of knowledge: medieval philosophy and alchemy; mythology, government ("she is the state, he is the prince" from Donne's " The Sun Rising" ), travelling ( Donne's " Go and Catch a Falling Star" )...
Some characteristics of metaphysical poetry:
a tendency to psychological analysis of emotion of love and religion an ability for imagery that is novel, unpoetical and sometimes shocking, drawn from the common place ( actual life ) or the remote ( erudite sources), including the extended metaphor of the "metaphysical conceit" form: frequently an argument ( with the poet's lover, with God..) meter: often rugged, not sweet or smooth like Elizabethan verse the best metaphysical poetry is honest, unconventional, and reveals the poet's sense of the complexities and contradictions of life. It is intellectual, analytical, psychological, usually it is absorbed in thoughts of death, physical love and religious devotion.
The Metaphysical Poets are known for their ability to surprise or frighten the reader and show new perspective through paradoxical images, not very strong arguments, inventive syntax and descriptions art, philosophy and religion using a metaphor known as a conceit. Using the term " Metaphysical poets" to describe this very different kind of writers doesn't have to mean that they shared a common world view- only that they held in common a poetic style and a way of organizing thoughts.
JOHN DONNE was known as the founder of the Metaphysical Poets. He was born in 1572 in London. Like most poets of that time Donne looked on poetry as a " polite accomplishment rather than as a trade or vocation, and in consequence he circulated his poems in manuscript but left most of them uncollected and unpublished."1 His poetry marks stylistic and thematic breaks from the sort of verse written by his predecessors and his contemporaries. Donne focused his work around highly concentrated images which often involved a dramatic contrast or it is noticable for its hard intellectualism. Donne liked to twist and to change not only images and ideas, but also traditional rhytmic and stanzaic patterns. Although later sonneters like William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson play with the Petrarchian tradition, the first significant change in the genre occured at the end of 16th century, when religion gradually displaced love as the main theme of the sonnet. He introduced love in his own way " The tired cliches of love poetry- cheeks like roses, hearts pierced by the arrows of love-emerge an unprecedental level of mental alertness and engagment ".2 John Donne was the first to express and develope the expresion of religious faith. In his Holy Sonnets he explores his obsessions with death and salvation. The 19 Holy Sonnets contain Donne's finest examples of religious poetry. These poems are marked by the same intensity,...
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