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Metaphysical movement

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Metaphysical movement

The term ‘metaphysical’ ( Meta means beyond; physical is the concrete) mean to transcend or go beyond the physical or concrete.The epithet Metaphysical in the context of poetry was, for the first time, used by the critic Samuel Johnson in his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1779-81), in a chapter on Abraham Cowely. Johnson borrowed this term from Dryden’s quote about John Donne,”He affects the metaphysics”. Johnson used this term to refer to the group of writers under the leadership of John Donne , belonging to the beginning of the 17th century.

John Donne established a style which inclined towards intellectual complexity. His fame rests on his wit and use of conceits in his poetry. His scholarly allusions and display of specialised knowledge of various fields has always attracted attention from critics and readers alike. He was therefore the flag bearer of the school of poetry whose members were notable poets like Sir John Suckling, johnCleveland, Richard Crashaw, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Abraham Cowely and Andrew Marvel. The followers of this school produced works which have a blend of emotion and intellectual ingenuity.These poets have attempted to explain the emotional and spiritual aspects of life in terms of concrete images and logical reasoning. Their poetry laid emphasis on analysing the feelings rather than on expressing the feelings.The most outstanding feature of their poetry is with the use of wit ( finding analogies between disparate things)and conceits (use of unusual comparisons and images or extended metaphors). Other distinct features of poets of this school are their use of colloquial diction, dramatic language, epigrammatic style, compression and brevity of expression and an argumentative tone which is enhanced with literary devices such as pun, antithesis, irony and paradox.

TS Eliot in his influential essay The Metaphysical poets (1921) appreciated metaphysical poets for achieving an ‘association of sensibility’,i.e their works embody a fusion of thought and feeling.On the other hand, Samuel Johnson criticised John Donne’s poetry and called his conceits “The most heterogynous ideas yoked by violence together”.

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