Let’s have a look at a genre of poetry that comprises profound subjects like spirituality, religion, a philosophical concept dealing with a highly intellectual form of poetry that presents the world to its readers in a unique way marked by bold and ingenious conceits, incongruous imagery, complexity and subtlety of thought, frequent use of paradox, and often by deliberate harshness or rigidity of expression.
‘Metaphysical Poetry’ is a philosophical concept used in literature in which poets represent things/ideas that are beyond the depiction of physical existence. In the word “metaphysical,” the concepts “meta” and “physical” are combined etymologically. “Meta” is a Greek word that means “beyond.” So metaphysical means “beyond the physical,” “beyond the commonplace.” The connotation is clear: it deals with objects/ideas that exist outside of the physical world. The term Metaphysical Poetry was first used by Samuel Johnson in his work “Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1179-1781).” He coined the term “metaphysical poets” to describe a loose collection of 17th-century poets. The group was informal, and the majority of the poets in this category had never met or read each other’s work. John Donne, Andrew Marvell, Abraham Cowley, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Thomas Traherne, Richard Crashaw, and others are among the group’s most famous poets. In his writings, he remarked that all of these writers used the same wit and conceit in their poetry.
Metaphysical poetry explores the abyss. It discusses the soul, love, religion, and reality, among other topics. When reading a metaphysical poem, you never know what you’re going to get. There may be unique ideologies and analogies that cause you to wonder and reflect. “Undissociated sensitivity” is one of the most important aspects of metaphysical poetry (the combination of feeling and thoughts). Even though it discusses serious topics, it does it in a lighthearted manner. The tone might be light at times. It can also be harsh at times. The goal is to introduce a fresh concept and make the reader think. Another feature of such poetry is that it is ambiguous. The concept of metaphysical poems is a little nebulous because it covers such a wide range of topics. Every person’s situation is unique. It is dependent on the reader’s perceptions and experiences. Based on their views and understanding, each person will derive something different from the same poem. One of poetry’s most distinctive and intriguing characteristics is the unusual comparison of things. All metaphysical has an extraordinary knack for humorous comparison, juxtaposition, and imagery. These strange parallels are philosophical conceits. In Twickenham Garden, Donne employs the word “spider love,” which goes against the reader’s expectations. Donne also equates a lover’s tears to the wine of love in the same verse, which is an uncommon combination. Conceit compares things that are vastly different. For example, calling lovers two points of the compass, treating the soul as a dewdrop, and so on.
It won’t surprise us if we hear someone say, “You’re a snail,” or “You’re as sluggish as a snail,” since we realize that the comparison is based on a shared attribute of slowness. Someone comparing “two lovers with the legs of a draftsman’s compass” will certainly catch us off guard. As a result, conceit examples have a surprise or stunning effect on readers since they are fresh parallels, as opposed to traditional similes and metaphors. In everyday life, we can surprise and amuse others by using conceits like “Love is like an oil change,” or “The broken heart is a damaged china pot.” In these examples, the attempt to compare two noticeably unrelated objects makes the comparisons conceits. Conceits in real life may give complex ideas and emotions an air of simplicity, by comparing them to simple day-to-day objects, as in “My life is like a free online game, people seem to be playing with it.”
The metaphysical poets enrich English literature with the best religious poetry and also contributed a lot to the field of love poetry. Their contribution to love is significant, and they have a significant place in English literary history. Metaphysical roughness and vulgarity in versification and diction provided a valuable service to English poets by demonstrating to them that “smoothness of numbers” alone does not make a poem faultless, but that there are other factors that might contribute to great poetry. Some of the great metaphysical poetry works by metaphysical poets include The Flea, The Sun Rising, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, Death Be Not Proud, by John Donne, The Collar, The Pulley, by George Herbert, The Retreat, by Henry Vaughan, The Definition of Love, To His Coy Mistress, by Andrew Marvell, etc.
Reading metaphysical poetry should be done with an open mind. It is not intended to persuade readers to believe in a certain way, but it does present a different perspective. Metaphysical poets are inquisitive people. Readers’ minds are opened, their thinking areas are expanded, and they are awakened by their writings. The hard nature of such poetry encourages readers to focus on things that exist beyond the physical realm. It also allows poets to express their inner thoughts in poetry, albeit digesting the abstract ideas and notions coined in metaphysical poetry requires higher cognitive skills.