Thursday, October 14, 2010


TOPIC   :   Features of metaphysical poetry
                  in John Donne.”
  NAME     :   Italiya kinjal.B     
ROLL NO:  02
SEM -1: M.A. PART-1
BATCH:  2010-2011

SUBMITTED TO:  Mr. Jay Mehta.
Department of English, Bhavnagar University.

Features of metaphysical poetry in John Donne: ~

            Life: ~ the briefest outline of Donne’s life shows its intense human interest. He was born in LONDON, The son of a rice iron merchant, at the time when the merchants of ENGLAND where creating a new and higher kind of princes. On his father's side he came from an old welsh family, and on his mother’s side from the Heywood’s and sir Thomas mores’ family. Both families were catholic; his own education could not be countinuedin OXFORD and CAMBRIDGE because of his religion. He studied low at LINCOLN'S INN, was investigating the philosophic grounds of all faith. He started write poetry in 1596-1597.Two of his best poems, “THE STORM"and"THE CALM”, belong to this period. In his entire work one finds a mystery, a hiding of sum deep thing which the world would gladly know and share, and which is suggested in his haunting little poem, “THE UNDERTAKING":

The Elizabethan Tradition: Its Decadence:~
           By the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century the great Elizabethan poetry had exhausted itself .Signs of decadence were visible everywhere. There were three traditions that were generally followed the Spenserian, the Arcadian and the petrarchian,Every thing was conventional and artificial, there was little that was original or emarkable.There was much sugared melody and rhyming extravagance, But intellectual emptiness. In the first decades of the 17th century there was a revolt against the outdated and exhausted Elizabethan poetry. As C.S.Lewis puts it"Metaphysicism in poetry is the fruit of the Renaissance tree becoming over ripe and approaching putrescence". 

Revolt against It: ~
               The leader of this revolt was Ben Jonson and John Donne. Both of them were forceful personalities who attracted staunch Followers and and founded schools. The first, Ben Jonson-The founder of the classical school which reached its full Flowering in the poetry of Dryden and pope-Was primarily a dramatist. As a poet he profoundly influenced the Caroline lyrists. The other is John Donne. His poetry is remarkable for its concentrated passion, intellectual agility and dramatic power. He is given to introspection and self-analysis: He writes but of his own intellectual, spiritual and amorous experiences. His curly satyrs, his songs and sonnets. His Holy sonnets escape all different expressions of his varied experiences. His poetry is marked with a tone of realism, even cynicism, but it is an always forceful and startliny.He is the founder of the so called "Metaphysical school”, of poetry, of which Richard Crashaw, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan and Abraham Cowley are. The other lyric poets. 

The metaphysical school: ~
·      Literally 'META'means"Beyond" and "Physics"means"Physical nature “It was Dryden who first used the word,"Metaphysical"in connection with Donne’s poetry and wrote, “Donne affects the Metaphysics “and Dr.John son confirmed the judgment of Dryden.Eversince the word, Metaphysical has been used for Donne and his Followers.However,the term is an unfortunate one, for it implies a process of dry reasoning, a speculation about the nature of the universe, the problems of life and death,etc.Milton's Paradise Lost, pope’s Essay on Man, and even Tennyson's In memoriam may be called Metaphysical poems for they are concerned with the nature of thinks Donne's poetry is not Metaphysical poems is long,Whild Donne's poems are all short. His poetry does not expound any philosophical system of the universe; rather it is as much concerned with his emotions and personal Experiences, as any other poetry. No doubt, she is much intellectual analysis of "emotions"and,"experience", but this by itself cannot be called Metaphysical. The poetry its content is concerned but as greisens puts it "Donne is Metaphysical not only by virtue of his scholasticism, but by his deep reflective interest in the experiences of which his poetry is the expression, the new psychological curiosity with which he writes of love and religion.

Metaphysical Imagery &Conceit ?:~
      In other words, Donne’s poetry may be called,'Metaphysical'only in as far as its technique, or style is concerned. It is heavily over loaded with conceits which may be defined as the excessive use of over elaborated similes an Metaphors, drawn from the most farfetched, remote an unfamiliar sources.Dr.John son defines of conceit as the perception of, “Occult resemblances in things apparently unlike."Poets have always perceived similarity between dissimilar objects and used similes and metaphors to convey their perception of that similarity. The peculiarity of the metaphysical lies in the fact that (1) they use figures of speech excessively (2) their similes and metaphors are far fetched and are often drawn from unfamiliar sources (3) their figures are elaborated to the far farthest limit(4)the relationship they perceive are occult. Hay are not obvious on the face of nature (5) their images are logical and intellectual rather than sensuous for emotional.

     Similarly Donne and the other metaphysical poets use words which call the mind into play, rather than those which speaker to the senses or "Evoke an emotional response though memory “they use words which have no associative value. This intellectual bias affects the forms of there. Poems and their rhytham.In their "conseits”theyconstantly bring together the abstract and the concrete, the remote and the near, the spiritual and the material, the finite and the infinite, the sublime and the commonplace. Thus Donne drowse his imagery from such varied sources as medieval theology, scholastic philosophy, the Ptolemaic astronomy of the middle ages, and the concepts of cotemporary sciences. His mind moves with great agility from one such concept to another, and it requires an equal agility on the part of the readers to follow him. Hence the difficult nature of his poetry, and hence the charge of obscurity that has been brought against him widely divergent elements are “yoked by violence together,”(Johnson)and the effect, as even sympathetic critics like Greisens and Joanbannett have recognized often fantastic. The difficulty of the readers is further increased by the extreme condensation and density of Donne’s poetry.

Fantastic Conceits and Hyperboles:~
           The fantastic nature of the ‘metaphysical conceits’ and poetry would become clear; if we examine a few example: in valediction; for hiding mourning, true lovers, now parted, are linked to the legs of a compass. The image is elaborated at length. The lovers are still spiritually one, just as the head of the compass is one even when the legs are apart. One leg remains fixed and the other moves round it. The lover cannot forget the beloved even when separated from her. The two lovers meet together again, as soon the circle has been drawn. Similarly in the flea, Donne deduces every kind of consequence from the fact that a flea hopes from biting him to suck his mistress's blood. He will not let her kill the creature in which their blood has mingled, and which is therefore, their bridal bed, “the temple of their wedding”. In such passages, even Donne, the greatest of the metaphysical lapses in to the ridiculous at the fantastic. At other times he uses equally extravagant hyperbioles.For example he mistakes then an Engel would be pro vanity.

Language Versification:~
         As has already been mentioned above Donne's poetry is poetry of revolt against the worn-out conventions of the day. He seeks for originality and newness and he achieves it in different ways. He seeks it through the use of farfetched and fantastic conceits. Logouts rightly remarks, “He will have nothing to do wither the easy and familiar mythological imagery: he turns out the company of the god's and goddesses and rejects the spoils of Greek and Latin poetry."He uses the natural language of men not when they are “emotionally excited “but when they are engaged in commerce or in scientific speculations. It is a 'new vocabulary ' he uses a vocabulary with no 'associative value’ and entirely different from from the poetic language of the Elizabethans. He wants to convey his meanings exactly and precisely and searches for verbal equivalents for emotional states, and this search often results in the use of the archaic and the strange. We do not find in him any of the 'sugared melody' of the peararchans; He violates every known rule of rhyme, meter and versification. As Ben Jonson puts it "Donne for not keeping of accent deserved hanging."His rhymes give a jar and jolt to the reader; they administer a shock to him and make him think by their very violence.
 Abrupt, colloquial openings: wit:~
        It is for this very reason that he often begins his poems abruptly as in the canonization:
                          For God's sake hold your tongue, and let me love,
                                    Elsewhere, he begins on a bitter not,
                           When by thy scorned, o’ murderess I am dead     
And then proceeds to tell her what terrors his ghost would cause to her after his death. Donne's witticism, too, has a similar purpose, startle and surprise. His wit is not merely, “what off was thought but never so well expressed”, but what was. “Seldom so thought and never so well expressed"."The king's real and his stamped farce," and the passage about the phoenix in the canonization, its. Are relevant examples. Donne surprises and arrests attention both by the content and style of his poetry.
Unification of Sensibility: ~
       In Donne’s poetry, there is always an intellectual analysis of emotion. Every lyric arise out of some emotional situation, and the emotion concerned is analysed thresdbare.Like a clever lawyer Donne gives arguments after arguments in support of his point of view.Thus in valediction: forbidding Mourning  he proves that true lovers need not mourn at the time of parting; in the canonization he establishes that lovers are  saints of love; and in the Blossomed he argues against that patrician love tradition.
He has been well said his poetry presents a “drama of ideas”. His lyrics are dramatic. A poem of Donne is a piece of drama.


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