Metaphysical Poetry€¦ · Metaphysical Poetry The Metaphysical poets were a loose group of...

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Metaphysical Poetry The Metaphysical poets were a loose group of similarly-minded poets working in the 16 th and 17 th centuries. They rebelled against the strict, structured nature of the sonnet form and began working in their own ways, expressing novel ideas in inventive poetic forms. These poets also aimed at a less polite, more colloquial and playful, entertaining style of writing. Some of them wrote in a distinctly secular manner, focussing on love, sex and relationships. Other poets considered religious life and love in great detail. “Metaphysical” is drawn from two Greek words: “Meta”, meaning beyond and “Physika”, meaning of the physical. This form of poetry aims to think and speak beyond the physical world. Most of these poems therefore begin in the very real, visceral, physical world and then extend beyond this to deal with life, love, morals, religion, time and existence. The poetry is very often compact in its ideas and images; it employs analogy and has been described, over the years, as being very difficult and dense in its content, images and ideas. Indeed, Jonson complained that many of Donne’s poems are excessively difficult to understand. Jonson felt that Donne’s poems, some written to women, are too difficult for women to understand! Metaphysical poetry has several important features: 1] the conceit--"farfetched," "combination of dissimilar images," "heterogeneous ideas yoked by violence together"—the conceits show far greater intellectuality than Petrarchan conceit. 2] complexity & obscurity: 3] paradox: 4] exaggeration, hyperbole: 5] rebellion against Petrarchan and Elizabethan poetic conventions: 6] colloquial language: 7] natural speech rhythms or extreme distortions of metrical patterns--"modulation so imperfect that they were only found to be verses by counting the syllables": 8] irregular lines and stanzas: 9] argumentative form and content: 10] persona & situation--like dramatic monologue in many cases. (http://post.queensu.ca/~cjf1/10_Metaphysical_Characteristics.pdf)

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  • Metaphysical Poetry The Metaphysical poets were a loose group of similarly-minded poets working in the 16th and 17th

    centuries. They rebelled against the strict, structured nature of the sonnet form and began working

    in their own ways, expressing novel ideas in inventive poetic forms. These poets also aimed at a less

    polite, more colloquial and playful, entertaining style of writing. Some of them wrote in a distinctly

    secular manner, focussing on love, sex and relationships. Other poets considered religious life and

    love in great detail.

    “Metaphysical” is drawn from two Greek words: “Meta”, meaning beyond and “Physika”, meaning

    of the physical. This form of poetry aims to think and speak beyond the physical world. Most of

    these poems therefore begin in the very real, visceral, physical world and then extend beyond this to

    deal with life, love, morals, religion, time and existence. The poetry is very often compact in its ideas

    and images; it employs analogy and has been described, over the years, as being very difficult and

    dense in its content, images and ideas. Indeed, Jonson complained that many of Donne’s poems are

    excessively difficult to understand. Jonson felt that Donne’s poems, some written to women, are too

    difficult for women to understand!

    Metaphysical poetry has several important features:

    1] the conceit--"farfetched," "combination of dissimilar images," "heterogeneous ideas yoked by

    violence together"—the conceits show far greater intellectuality than Petrarchan conceit.

    2] complexity & obscurity:

    3] paradox:

    4] exaggeration, hyperbole:

    5] rebellion against Petrarchan and Elizabethan poetic conventions:

    6] colloquial language:

    7] natural speech rhythms or extreme distortions of metrical patterns--"modulation so imperfect

    that they were only found to be verses by counting the syllables":

    8] irregular lines and stanzas:

    9] argumentative form and content:

    10] persona & situation--like dramatic monologue in many cases.

    (http://post.queensu.ca/~cjf1/10_Metaphysical_Characteristics.pdf)

    http://post.queensu.ca/~cjf1/10_Metaphysical_Characteristics.pdf

  • Metaphors are a popular way of compacting ideas in Metaphysical poetry. These poets drew

    heavily from their time and built comparisons based on geography, exploration, new worlds

    and ideas and conquering both new worlds and potential lovers. The metaphors created are

    known for being unusual and interesting. These poets often yoked together strikingly

    different images or ideas in metaphors. This unusual conceit is a hallmark of Metaphysical

    poetry.

    http://41.media.tumblr.com/294645b111784af844df2ee204396d34/tumblr_nmcrz8XD7G1uqg4zmo1_1280.jpg

  • John Donne 1572-1631

    John Donne was one of the leading metaphysical poets of the Renaissance, with a hugely

    varied body of work ranging from sermons to sonnets, and elegies to pamphlets. A

    contemporary of Shakespeare, he is known for both his love poetry and religious verse,

    and often used complex conceits, such as extended

    metaphors, with startling impact.

    Donne was born in London in 1572 into a Catholic family at a

    time when Catholicism was illegal. He studied at both Oxford

    and Cambridge but could not graduate because of his faith.

    After university he became a soldier and fought on the

    continent and then returned to a promising civil service

    career. But Donne effectively stalled his own career when he

    secretly married his employer's teenage niece, Anne More.

    Her uncle was furious and had him arrested. Though he was

    later released from prison, he found it hard to find

    employment, and over the coming years he would be unable

    to support his increasingly large family without charitable

    help.

    When King James I came to power, Donne converted to the

    Church of England and moved towards religious poetry,

    writing prose attacking the Catholic faith. In 1615, in a final change of fortune, Donne

    took holy orders and rose quickly in his profession to become the Dean of St Paul's

    Cathedral in London. Towards the end of his life he wrote the famous Holy Sonnet X

    (Death be not Proud). He died in 1631, and his work was never published in his lifetime.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/poetryseason/poets/john_donne.shtml

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/poetryseason/poems/death.shtmlhttp://www.britannica.com/art/Metaphysical-poets/images-videos/John-Donne-detail-of-an-oil-painting-by-an-unknown/10110

  • No Man Is An Island

    No man is an island,

    Entire of itself,

    Every man is a piece of the continent,

    A part of the main.

    If a clod be washed away by the sea,

    Europe is the less.

    As well as if a promontory were.

    As well as if a manor of thy friend's

    Or of thine own were:

    Any man's death diminishes me,

    Because I am involved in mankind,

    And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

    It tolls for thee.

  • George Herbert 1593–1633

    Nestled somewhere within the Age of Shakespeare and the Age of Milton is George

    Herbert. There is no Age of Herbert: he did not consciously fashion an expansive literary

    career for himself, and his characteristic gestures, insofar as these can be gleaned from

    his poems and other writings, tend to be careful self-scrutiny rather than rhetorical

    pronouncement; local involvement rather than broad social engagement; and complex,

    ever-qualified lyric contemplation rather than epic or dramatic mythmaking. This is the

    stuff of humility and integrity, not celebrity. But even if Herbert does not appear to be

    one of the larger-than-life cultural monuments of seventeenth-century England—a

    position that virtually requires the qualities of irrepressible ambition and boldness, if not

    self-regarding arrogance, that he attempted to flee—he is in some ways a pivotal figure:

    enormously popular, deeply and broadly influential, and arguably the most skillful and

    important British devotional lyricist (religious poet) of this or any other time.

    Herbert is also important, especially in the seventeenth century, not only as a poet but

    as a cultural icon, an image of religious and political stability held up for emulation

    during tumultuous times. Much of his early popularity owes something to the carefully

    crafted persona of "holy Mr Herbert" put forth by the custodians of his literary works and

    reputation. Herbert is sketched as one who exchanged the advantages of noble birth and

    worldly preferment for the strains of serving at "Gods Altar," one whose "obedience and

    conformitie to the Church and the discipline thereof was singularly remarkable," and

    whose "faithfull discharge" of the holy duties to which he was called "make him justly a

    companion to the primitive Saints, and a pattern or more for the age he lived in."

    Herbert becomes a model of harmonious, orderly, non-controversial devotion for whom

    faith brought answers and commitment to the social establishment, not divisive

    questions and social fragmentation.

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/uploads/authors/george-herbert/448x/george-herbert.jpg

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/uploads/authors/george-herbert/448x/george-herbert.jpg

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/uploads/authors/george-herbert/448x/george-herbert.jpghttp://www.poetryfoundation.org/uploads/authors/george-herbert/448x/george-herbert.jpghttp://www.poetryfoundation.org/uploads/authors/george-herbert/448x/george-herbert.jpghttp://www.poetryfoundation.org/uploads/authors/george-herbert/448x/george-herbert.jpg

  • THE AGONY

    Philosophers have measured mountains,

    Fathom'd the depths of seas, of states, and kings,

    Walk'd with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains

    But there are two vast, spacious things,

    The which to measure it doth more behove:

    Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.

    Who would know Sin, let him repair

    Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see

    A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,

    His skin, his garments, bloody be.

    Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain

    To hunt his cruel food through every vein.

    Who knows not Love, let him assay,

    And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike

    Did set again abroach; then let him say

    If ever he did taste the like.

    Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,

    Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-

    9LGCdJGtYEk/Uw9qlp0MgoI/AAAAAAAABh4/2olFGx1T

    fdE/s1600/George+Herbert.jpg

  • Andrew Marvell 1621-1678

    http://factfile.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Andrew-Marvell-Facts.jpg

    Andrew Marvell was an English metaphysical poet, Parliamentarian, and the son of a

    Church of England clergyman (also named Andrew Marvell). As a metaphysical poet, he

    is associated with John Donne and George Herbert. He was a colleague and friend of

    John Milton.

    Marvell was born in Winestead-in-Holderness, East Riding of Yorkshire, near the city of

    Kingston upon Hull. The family moved to Hull when his father was appointed Lecturer at

    Holy Trinity Church there, and Marvell was educated at Hull Grammar School. A secondary school in the city is now named after him.

    Marvell’s poetry is often witty and full of elaborate conceits in the elegant style of the

    metaphysical poets. Many poems were inspired by events of the time, public or

    personal.

    http://www.poemhunter.com/andrew-marvell/biography/

    See also:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/poetryrelationships/tohiscoymistressrev1.shtml

    http://www.poemhunter.com/andrew-marvell/biography/

  • To His Coy Mistress

    Had we but world enough and time,

    This coyness, lady, were no crime.

    We would sit down, and think which way

    To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

    Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side

    Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide

    Of Humber would complain. I would

    Love you ten years before the flood,

    And you should, if you please, refuse

    Till the conversion of the Jews.

    My vegetable love should grow

    Vaster than empires and more slow;

    An hundred years should go to praise

    Thine 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 hear

    Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;

    http://litmuse.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Leighton-

    Courtship-200x300.jpg

  • And yonder all before us lie

    Deserts of vast eternity.

    Thy beauty shall no more be found;

    Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound

    My echoing song; then worms shall try

    That long-preserved 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 hue

    Sits on thy skin like morning dew,

    And while thy willing soul transpires

    At every pore with instant fires,

    Now let us sport us while we may,

    And now, like amorous birds of prey,

    Rather at once our time devour

    Than languish in his slow-chapped power.

    Let us roll all our strength and all

    Our sweetness up into one ball,

    And tear our pleasures with rough strife

    Through the iron gates of life:

    Thus, though we cannot make our sun

    Stand still, yet we will make him run.

  • Thomas Carew 1595-1640

    Thomas Carew, was born in 1594/95, in West Wickham, Kent, England. He died on

    March the 22nd, 1639/40, in London. Carew was an English poet and first of the Cavalier

    song writers.

    Educated at the University of Oxford and at the Middle Temple, London, Carew served as

    secretary at embassies in Venice, The Hague, and Paris. In 1630 Carew received a court

    appointment and became server at table to the king. The Earl of Clarendon considered

    him as “a person of pleasant and facetious wit” among a brilliant circle of friends that

    included the playwright Ben Jonson.

    Carew’s poems, circulated in manuscript, were amatory lyrics or occasional poems

    addressed to members of the court circle, notable for their ease of language and skilful

    control of mood and imagery. His longest poem was the sensuous Rapture, but his lyrics

    are among the most complex and thoughtful of any produced by the Cavalier poets. He

    was a meticulous workman, and his own verses addressed to Ben Jonson show that he

    was proud to share Jonson’s creed of painstaking perfection. He greatly admired the

    poems of John Donne, whom he called king of “the universal monarchy of wit” in his

    elegy on Donne (deemed the outstanding piece of poetic criticism of the age). He

    translated a number of the Psalms and is said to have died with expressions of remorse

    for a life of libertinism. His poems were published a few weeks after his death.

    http://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Carew

    w.jpg http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/carew/tcarew.jpgQuotes

    http://www.britannica.com/place/Kent-county-Englandhttp://www.britannica.com/place/Londonhttp://www.britannica.com/place/The-Haguehttp://www.britannica.com/biography/Ben-Jonson-English-writerhttp://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Donnehttp://www.poemhunter.com/thomas-carew/quotations/

  • A Divine Mistress

    In Nature's pieces still I see

    Some error that might mended be;

    Something my wish could still remove,

    Alter or add; but my fair love

    Was fram'd by hands far more divine,

    For she hath every beauteous line:

    Yet I had been far happier,

    Had Nature, that made me, made her.

    Then likeness might (that love creates)

    Have made her love what now she hates;

    Yet I confess I cannot spare

    From her just shape the smallest hair;

    Nor need I beg from all the store

    Of heaven for her one beauty more.

    She hath too much divinity for me:

    You gods, teach her some more humanity.

  • References:

    Di Cesare, M A (eds) George Herbert and the Seventeenth Century Religious Poets. (1978) Norton and

    Company.