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Metaphysical poets

The 'Metaphysical poets\' were a loose group of British lyric poets of the 17th century, who shared an interest in metaphysical concerns and a common way of investigating them. Their rigorous, energetic verse appeals to the reader’s intellect rather than emotions, discarding intuition and mysticism in favour of rational discussion. Their inventive, elaborate style was characterised by learned imagery and subtle argumentation, and the "metaphysical conceit", a figure of speech that employs unusual and paradoxical images such as in Andrew Marvell’s comparison of the soul with a drop of dew. Although such devices were not new, these poets managed to make the most of them with their fresh and original approach, infusing new life into English poetry.

The most important Metaphysical poets were

The following poets have also been sometimes considered Metaphysical:

They were first labelled "metaphysical poets" by Samuel Johnson in The Lives of the Poets (1744), though John Dryden had already pointed out the "Metaphysics" of Donne’s poetry in a critique some fifty years earlier. Although both Dryden and Johnson were highly disapproving of the metaphysical poets, regarding their style as too abstracted and far-fetched in its witty comparisons, the group was to have a significant influence on 20th-century poetry, especially through T. S. Eliot whose essay The Metaphysical Poets (1921) helped bring their poetry back into favour.

External links

17th C. English Literature: Metaphysical Poets by Anniina Jokinen

The Metaphysical Poets - study guide by Andrew Moore