Subject : Metaphysical poetry
Student :Latifa SAFOUI
Metaphysical poetry and metaphysical poets of 17th century England have instigated an ongoing heated debate that has developed a peculiar immunity to any kind of settlement or final consencus among scholars and academics interested in English literature . The clamour that accompanied the rise of metaphysical poetry has to do ,in large ,with the fact that metaphysical poets - which is the term used to denote the architects of this trend in English poetry- have drawn a demarcation line that set them apart from the prevailing tradition of poetry writing in their time .
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Instead of being reflective poets, who would provide a psychological emotionally engaged account of life experiences ; metaphysical poets opted for complete dissociation ,complete detachement and estrangement from the topics they tackled ,which were, yet , not totally new or different from the ones treated before .Nevertheless ,the dissociation mentioned was effected only initially ;the fragmentation of thoughts,feelings and usual modes of meaning was implemented as a preliminary stage to putting everything back together again in a higher synthesis .
Poets like Donne ,Marvell and Cowley used extended metaphors and yoked the physical to the metaphysical ; think of Donne s the bait as an instance . In the first stanza of the poem , Donne invites his beloved :
Come live with me and be my love ,
And we will some new pleasures prove ,
Of golden sands ,and crystal brooks ,
With silken lines and silver hooks .
Donne ,in a parody of Christopher Marlow s The shepherd to his love , and unlike Marlow whose poem personifies the traditional love lyric that draws heavily on nature and on natural ,pastoral imageries ; he doesn t forground nature .Instead ,he puts it in the background favouring a physical instrument(the bait /the silken lines and silver hooks ) to build up his metaphor , which is going to stretch over the whole poem . Notice how this deeply stands in contrast with the shepherd to his love , where the poet invokes valleys ,groves ,hills ,fields and mountains :
Come live with me and be my love ,
And we will all the pleasures prove ,
That valleys ,groves ,hills and fields ,
Woods ,or steepy mountains yields .
Whereas Christopher Marlow uses clear ,common and natural metaphors and imageries to court his lover ,Donne goes beyond the seemingly simplistic language borrowed from nature and shifts focus from the natural to the more physical and more material things that he avails of in the building up of his metaphors .
Such predilection for the physical, the unusual and the unnatural is what has mostly characterized metaphysical poetry . Poets established some associations which –at their time – earned them the label of ‘’absurd ‘’, ‘’singular ‘’or even completely’’ unfathomable’’ . The bait srikes the reader by the uncommon analogy between the man in his pursuit of his beloved to the bait ‘s catching of fish ;a thing,by the prevalent standards of the time ,considered out of time and place , an aberrant form of poetry that needed immediate readjustment and redressal .
Redressal ( or rather attempts at redressal ) was to come at the hands of Samuel Jonhson who was the first to carve the term ‘’metaphysical ‘’and this , he did , in a mocking ,sardonic and derisory way .For s.Johnson,these poets ‘ overriding aim is ,not...