Discuss John Donne As a Metaphysical Poet- Part I
The word "metaphysical", as defined by the critic Samuel Johnson, is a loose term generally applied to a diverse group of 17 century poets that appeared a reaction to the Elizabethan poetry and they altogether changed the conventions of love and divine poems. These included John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvel and others. The chief traits of metaphysical poetry are excessive use of wit, conceits, paradoxes, far -fetched imagery or similes and speculation about topics such as love or religion. In a sense, many of these poets were influenced by Neo-Platonism. Since they appealed more to the intellect than to the senses, therefore, critics like Samuel Johnson rejected them as successful poets; the reader "sometimes admires, is seldom pleased". He tagged this poetry as "the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions..."
John Donne is regarded a great metaphysical and love poet. Though it is a fact that he remained under darkness for a couple of hundred years, yet today he is acknowledged as a remarkable poet of his era. He changed the dynamics of love poetry which was severely resented by the conventional poets, the Elizabethans. Living in his age, the bold treatment of love both in his love as well as divine poems is surprising but intellectually appealing. The subtlety of style and use of conceits sometimes shocks but appeals to the intellect. The rigid approach and accusations of his critics that "he perplexes the minds of the fair sex with the speculations of philosophy" were eclipsed by the commending remarks of T.S Eliot and the likes.
Donne is a passionate and bold poet. To grasp & understand the true sense of metaphysical poetry and its use by John Donne, let us discuss various aspects of this genre of verse in the light of his poetry. The poet boldly treats the matter of physical love and union and the disturbance caused by the sun "buie old foole, unruly sunne" in "The Sun Rising". He goes on to ask God to "batter my heart" because the poet feels that he has sinned so much that there is no escape for him except that God renews his heart and makes it anew. He seeks spiritual renewal with the grace of God. There are several examples as to the passion and boldness of his poetry e.g. "Death be not proud", "Twicknam Garden" etc.
Read Part II...