Metaphysical poetry is a distinct type of poetry that flourished in the 17th century introduced by John Donne. Metaphysical poetry is a revolt against the Elizabethan poetry of conventional form and theme. By metaphysical poetry we mean that type of new school of poetry which implies some salient characteristics of abrupt and striking beginning, complexity, dramatic quality, blending of passion and intellectuality, argument and wit, conceits and images, philosophic and reflective tone, the use of colloquial language etc. we need to analytical discussion of Donne’s major poems and their characteristics in order to evaluate Donne as the precursor of metaphysical poetry.
Abrupt and striking beginning is an important aspect of metaphysical poetry. For example, we can quote the opening line of “The Canonization”:
“For God’s sake hold your tongue and let me love”.
Undoubtedly, all of Donne’s poems have such kind of striking beginning that arrest our attention instantly.
Another important aspect of metaphysical poetry is dramatic quality. In Donne’s poems have always a dramatic development and atmosphere that attract the readers and create dramatic suspension in their mind. For example
“Go and catch a falling star
Lives a woman true and fair”.
The abundant use of conceits and farfetched imagery is a fundamental trait of Donne’s metaphysical poetry which is a comparison between two dissimilar things. The most famous conceit is the comparison of a man who travels and his beloved who stays, to a pair of compasses in his poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”.
Wit is the dominant feature of Donne’s metaphysical poetry. Donne’s wit may be found in his use of puns, wordplay, oxymoron, paradox, etc. For example in “The canonization” his wit is seen:
Observe His Honour, or His Grace
Or the king’s real, or his stamped face”.
In Donne’s love poetry, we find a peculiar blend of passion and thought, feeling and ratiocination. Each of his love poems arises out of a particular emotion but he explains that emotion with the help of his intellect.
To conclude, we can say that Donne is metaphysical both in the treatment of theme and technique. He is perfectly a metaphysical poet by virtue of his learning and intellect, displaying an abundance of wit and conceits and above all, his blend of passion and thought.