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The metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century particularly admired the methodology of science, & in fact they copied it, & their phrasing is often technical, spare, and polysyllabic, though they are not repeating actual science but making those metaphysicals substitutions that are so arresting.
—John Crowe Ransom
Sir, Herbert Grierson defines the term as “a poetry which like that of the Divina Commedia, the De Natwa Rereem, perhaps Goethe’s Faust, has been inspired by a philosophical conception of the universe & the role assigned to the human spirit in the great drama of existense.” They formed a school in the sense of employing similar poetic strategies & of being motivated by a spirit of revolt against the conventional poetry of the Elizabethans, particularly the Spencerians. John Donne was the leader and the most influential member of the group. The group also included Richard Crashaw, George Herbert, & Henry Vaughan, who wrote mainly religious subjects; & John Cleveland, Abraharm Cowley, & Andrew Marvell, who wrote mainly on religious topics.
Metaphysical poetry is concerned with the whole experience of man, but the intelligence, learning and seriousness of the poets means that the poetry is about the profound areas of experience especially - about love, romantic and sensual; about man’s relationship with God - the eternal perspective, and, to a less extent, about pleasure, learning and art.
By itself, metaphysical means dealing with the relationship between spirit to matter or the ultimate nature of reality. The Metaphysical poets are obviously not the only poets to deal with this subject matter, so there are a number of other qualities involved as well:
· Use of ordinary speech mixed with puns, paradoxes and conceits (a paradoxical metaphor causing a shock to the reader by the strangeness of the objects compared; some examples: lovers and a compass, the soul and timber, the body...
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