Metaphysical Poetry : A Critical Study

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A group of writers, who appeared in the early part of the seventeenth century, were the followers of John Donne and known as Metaphysical poets. John Donne, the founder of the Metaphysical School of poetry and the most independent of Elizabethan poets, revolted against the easy and fluent style, stock imagery and pastoral conventions of the followers of Spenser. He aimed at reality of thought and vividness of expression. Sensation, emotion and thought were interfused in the poetry of Metaphysical poets. If Aristotle, the father of criticism, described poetry as an imitative art, metaphysical poets would lose their right to be called as poets, for they cannot be said to have imitated anything, they neither copied nature, nor life, neither painted the forms of matter, nor represented the operations of intellect. Their thoughts were often new but seldom natural. However, the term ‘metaphysical’ was first applied to Donne when Dryden said, “Donne affects the metaphysics”, and taking the cue, Dr Samuel Johnson The following are the characteristics of the Metaphysical poetry. Delight in novel thought and expression is one of the most important characteristics of Metaphysical poetry. The Metaphysical poets carried the Elizabethan freedom of imagination. They had their own independent thought and expressed them in their own manner. Sir Walter Scott said, “They played with the thoughts as the Elizabethan had played with words.” In Johnson’s words, the Metaphysical poets desired to say what they hoped had been never said before. They endeavored to be singular in their thoughts and were careless of their diction. Imagery is the most distinctive feature of the Metaphysical poetry. It is based upon the perception of some similarity between different things. The very important aspect of the metaphysical imagery is that it is used not as mere ornament or illustration
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