Metaphysical Poetry

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Metaphysical Poetry between Mannerism & Baroque Representatives: John Donne; George Herbert; Andrew Marvell; Henry Vaughan; Richard Crashaw; Abraham Cowley INGENUITY, INTELLECTUALITY, OBSCURITY subject matter [the relationship of spirit to matter or the ultimate nature of reality] expression [putting forward a particular philosophical world view ] - ornate language, strange syntax, far-fetched images, intellectual sophistication, artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities

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Metaphysical Poetry

Transcript of Metaphysical Poetry

  • Metaphysical Poetry between Mannerism & BaroqueRepresentatives:

    John Donne; George Herbert; Andrew Marvell; Henry Vaughan; Richard Crashaw; Abraham Cowley INGENUITY, INTELLECTUALITY, OBSCURITY

    subject matter [the relationship of spirit to matter or the ultimate nature of reality] expression [putting forward a particular philosophical world view] - ornate language, strange syntax, far-fetched images, intellectual sophistication, artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities

  • The evolution of the term 1. originally: DERISIVE LABEL by DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORDEN: new metaphysical ideas and scholastical odditiesRenaissance poetics - strong lines - intricate intellectual quality, intentional obscurity, CRABBED, ECCENTRIC, CHAOTIC

  • 2. John Dryden (Discourse concerning the Original and Progress of Satire, 1693):Donne affects the metaphysics not only in his satires but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign, and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy

  • 3. Samuel Johnson (The Lives of the English Poets): described the basis of metaphysical imagery as discordia concors

    the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together

    The metaphysical poets were men of learning, and to show their learning was their whole endeavour

  • 20th century revaluation

    Sir Herbert Griersons great ed. of Donnes Poetical Works (1912) T. S. Eliot 1921 (The Metaphysical Poets) the polyvalent sensibility of the metaphysicals

  • T. S. Eliot, The Metaphysical PoetsSomething happened to the mind of England between the time of Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of Tennyson and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual poet and the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and they think; but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the odour of a rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility. When a poets mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the ordinary mans experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The latter falls in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have nothing to do with the other, or with the noise of the typewriter or the smell of cooking; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes[]

  • T. S. Eliot, The Metaphysical Poets (ctd)[] The poets of the seventeenth century, the successors of the dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of sensibility which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple, artificial, difficult or fantastic, as their predecessors were; no less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or Cino. In the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set in, from which we have never recovered

  • for a poet with a unified sensibility: the sensory world = saturated with meaning for a poet with a dissociated sensibility: feeling = ungrounded

    1. sentimentality SENTIMENTALIST emotional effusion2. rumination REFLECTIVE philosophical speculation

  • Characteristics Herbert Grierson Introduction to Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century :lays stress on the right thingsthe survival, one might say the reaccentuation, of the metaphysical strain, the concetti metafisici ed ideali as Testi calls them in contrast to the simpler imagery of classical poetry, of mediaeval Italian poetry; the more intellectual, less verbal, character of their wit compared with the conceits of the Elizabethans; the finer psychology of which their conceits are often the expression; their learned imagery; the argumentative, subtle evolution of their lyrics; above all the peculiar blend of passion and thought, feeling and ratiocination which is their greatest achievement. Passionate thinking is always apt to become metaphysical, probing and investigating the experience from which it takes its rise

  • 1. the metaphysical strain, the concetti metafisici et ideali METAPHYSICAL CONCEIT. (Lat. conceptus, concept) via It. concetto)Strong unusual metaphors uniting contraries (discordia concors) figure of speech which combines incongruous & apparently contradictory words & meanings for a special effect and which is intended to surprise and delight by its wit and ingenuity e.g. honest thief, black snow, Miltons description of hell, No light, but rather darkness visible)

  • world - regarded as a vast divine system of metaphors; the ability to realise that was wit. (constantly amalgamating disparate experience, TS Eliot)explore far-reaching allusions to physiology, astronomy, alchemy, chemistry, geography, biology. Antimimetic Logic (their poems imitated nothing, neither nature nor life Dr. Johnson). association with intense sensual and spiritual experience

  • e.g. Donnes A Valediction: forbidding mourningIf they be two, they are two soAs stiffe twin compasses are two,Thy soule, the fixt foot, makes no showTo move, but doth, if the other doe.And though it in the center sit,Yet when the other far doth rome,It leanes, and hearkens after it,And growes erect, as that comes home.Such wilt thou be to mee, who mustLike th other foot, obliquely runne;Thy firmnes makes my circle just,And makes me end, where I begunne.

  • 2. the more intellectual, less verbal, the character of their witMetaphysical Wit (INGENUITY, INVENTIVE, IMAGINATIVE FACULTY, FLASH OF VERBAL INTUITION): pun, paradox and conceitplay of intellect and the depth of emotion

    feeling thought, sensuous apprehension of thought (TS Eliot)passion is curbed by judgment, and judgment is illuminated by passion

    passionate ratiocination (Williamson)

  • 3. the finer psychology of which their conceits are often the expressiondeep reflective interest in experiences new psychological curiosity

  • 4. learned imagery startling imagery that associates incongruous objectserudite and recondite analogies drawn from classical myth (the Phoenix legend in The Canonization); references to scholastic philosophy, Renaissance logic and rhetoric, alchemy, mathematics, astrology, theology, anatomy, the law.the homeliest and most prosaic imagery. Donne The Flea, whose body unites the blood of lover and mistress, a marriage temple

  • John Donne, THE CANONIZATIONFOR God's sake hold your tongue, and let me love ; Or chide my palsy, or my gout ; My five gray hairs, or ruin'd fortune flout ;With wealth your state, your mind with arts improve ; Take you a course, get you a place, Observe his Honour, or his Grace ;Or the king's real, or his stamp'd face Contemplate ; what you will, approve, So you will let me love.

  • Alas ! alas ! who's injured by my love? What merchant's ships have my sighs drown'd? Who says my tears have overflow'd his ground? When did my colds a forward spring remove? When did the heats which my veins fill Add one more to the plaguy bill?Soldiers find wars, and lawyers find out still Litigious men, which quarrels move, Though she and I do love.

  • Call's what you will, we are made such by love ; Call her one, me another fly, We're tapers too, and at our own cost die, And we in us find th' eagle and the dove. The phoenix riddle hath more wit By us ; we two being one, are it ;So, to one neutral thing both sexes fit. We die and rise the same, and prove Mysterious by this love.

  • We can die by it, if not live by love, And if unfit for tomb or hearse Our legend be, it will be fit for verse ; And if no piece of chronicle we prove, We'll build in sonnets pretty rooms ; As well a well-wrought urn becomesThe greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs, And by these hymns, all shall approve Us canonized for love ;

  • And thus invoke us, "You, whom reverend love Made one another's hermitage ; You, to whom love was peace, that now is rage; Who did the whole world's soul contract, and drove Into the glasses of your eyes ; So made such mirrors, and such spies,That they did all to you epitomize Countries, towns, courts beg from above A pattern of your love."

  • John Donne, THE FLEAMARK but this flea, and mark in this,How little that which thou deniest me is ;It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.Thou know'st that this cannot be saidA sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead ; Yet this enjoys before it woo, And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two ; And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

  • O stay, three lives in one flea spare,Where we almost, yea, more than married are.This flea is you and I, and thisOur marriage bed, and marriage temple is.Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,And cloister'd in these living walls of jet. Though use make you apt to kill me, Let not to that self-murder added be, And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

  • Cruel and sudden, hast thou sincePurpled thy nail in blood of innocence?Wherein could this flea guilty be,Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thouFind'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.'Tis true ; then learn how false fears be ;Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.

  • 5. the argumentative subtle evolution of their lyricsstrenuous (powerful, forceful) argument in poetry; the ratiocinative, argumentative development, persuasive stratagemsStrategy of address = typically DRAMATIC (interaction between speaker, audience, reader), rather than narrative and descriptive dramatic and colloquial mode of utterance

  • 6. direct, unconventional, colloquial speech complex syntax, vivid and abrupt speech patterns instead of Elizabethan smoothness, mellifluous harmony

  • 7.IRONY & PARADOX Helen Gardner: the Metaphysical Poem = an expanded epigram

  • 8. Themes baroque world view I.LOVE: Original attitudes toward sexual love: hedonistic, epicuristic perspective.

    new sexual realism, together with introspective psychological analysisCARPE DIEM, DEATHII.Religious theme: devotional, mystical death, love, God, human frailty

    Amatory and religious melancholy, a mannerist preoccupation with the pains and anguish of love and faith

  • JOHN DONNE (1572-1631) well spring of the metaphysicals age of religious polemic (a Roman Catholic who later became an Anglican), strong Jesuit teachingfamily - a long history of martyrdom (Pseudo-Martyr, 1610)Songs and sonnets, the satires, elegies and verse letters - chiefly love poetry: psychological penetration, a wide range of mood from ecstatic passion to flippant cynicism1604 Biathanatosanti-Catholic polemics took Holy Orders 1615; Dean of St Pauls Cathedral 1621

  • - five satires, - twenty elegies & - the Songs and Sonnets - occasional poems- religious poems- sermons

    19 Holy Sonnets: combine passion and argument (Batter my Heart, Death be not proud): man searches the right relationship with divinityuse of contemporary imagery for profane love to make concrete and shockingly personal the impact of divine loveexcruciating trials undergone by a believer in search of faith.

  • Batter My Heart, Three Persond GodHoly Sonnet, XIV Batter My Heart, Three Persond God; for youAs yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;That I may rise, and stand, oerthrow me, and bendYour force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.

  • I, like an usurpt town, to another due,Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end,Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,But is captivd, and proves weake or untrue.

  • Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved faine,But I am betrothd unto your enemie:Divorce mee, untie, or breake that knot againe,Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I

  • Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free,Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

  • Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress Had we but world enough, and time,This coyness, lady, were no crime.We would sit down and think which wayTo walk, and pass our long love's day;Thou by the Indian Ganges' sideShouldst rubies find; I by the tideOf Humber would complain. I wouldLove you ten years before the Flood;And you should, if you please, refuseTill the conversion of the Jews.My vegetable love should growVaster than empires, and more slow.An hundred years should go to praiseThine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;Two hundred to adore each breast,But thirty thousand to the rest;An age at least to every part,And the last age should show your heart.For, lady, you deserve this state,Nor would I love at lower rate.

  • But at my back I always hearTime's winged chariot hurrying near;And yonder all before us lieDeserts of vast eternity.Thy beauty shall no more be found,Nor, in thy marble vault, shall soundMy echoing song; then worms shall tryThat long preserv'd virginity,And your quaint honour turn to dust,And into ashes all my lust.The grave's a fine and private place,But none I think do there embrace.

  • Now therefore, while the youthful hueSits on thy skin like morning dew,And while thy willing soul transpiresAt every pore with instant fires,Now let us sport us while we may;And now, like am'rous birds of prey,Rather at once our time devour,Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.Let us roll all our strength, and allOur sweetness, up into one ball;And tear our pleasures with rough strifeThorough the iron gates of life.Thus, though we cannot make our sunStand still, yet we will make him run.

  • Sources Eliot, T. S. (1932) The Metaphysical Poets in Selected Essays London: Faber & Faber LimitedGrierson, HJ (1921) Introduction to Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century Hammondsworth: Penguin BooksHolloway, John (1960) The Charted Mirror: Literary and Critical Essays London: Routledge & Kegan PaulKermode, Frank (1973) Renaissance Essays Collins Fontana BooksNelson, Lowry (1966) Baroque Lyric Poetry, New Haven: Yale University PressWarnke, Frank (1978) Versions of the Baroque, New Haven: Yale University Press