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Metaphysical Poetry

  The Metaphysical poets were a number of 17th-century English writers, most notably Abraham Cowley, Richard Crashaw, John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell and Henry Vaughan. They blended description of everyday passions and sentiments with abstract (and sometimes abstruse) philosophizing. Donne, for example, observes a flea that bites him and his mistress, and reflects at length on the mingling of their blood. Herbert, when describing a sunset, launches into a prolonged discussion of the majesty of God. The Metaphysical poets never thought of themselves as a group—the name was coined later by John Dryden—and are very different from one another in style, theme and approach. Not only that, but many other poets similarly blend physical and metaphysical themes without attracting the name. In Japanese and Persian poetry, for example, not to mention most of the the poetry of European Romanticism, this blend is what makes the art. KMcL

Further reading Rosemond Tuve, Elizabethan and Metaphysical Poetry; , F.J. Warnke, European Metaphysical Poetry.



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