John Donne's Metaphysical Poetry

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John Donne is known as one of the founding and leading members of a group of artists known as the metaphysical poets. Such group includes a few 17th century poets such as Andrew Marvell, George Herbert and Henry Vaughan. Metaphysical poetry, although widely-discussed, is nevertheless vaguely defined. Even though John Donne wrote many poems which are considered ‘metaphysical’, he did not see himself in this term nor did he write a handbook on how to write metaphysical poems. Literally, the prefix meta means ‘beyond’ or ‘after’ while physics refers to the ‘physical nature’ or ‘science’. Metaphysical poetry thus revolves around issues that exist beyond the physical world. In other words, this type of poetry deals with abstract and philosophical subjects that cannot simply be answered and explained by science or empirical method. Metaphysical poets usually write about the nature of love, the existence of soul, the idea of of God etc. The word ‘metaphysics’ was first used by John Dryden in his Discourse on Satire (1693). Instead of paying tribute to Donne, Dryden criticizes that Donne “affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign” (Dryden). The way Donne employed to argue and persuade in his love poems is perhaps what Dryden deems inappropriate. Samuel Johnson, a poet and literary critic, also took on the term and extended Dryden’s charge in his his book Lives of the English Poets. Johnson criticizes metaphysical
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