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Why has Donne's poetry been described as 'Metaphysical'?

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  • Essay length: 3106 words
  • Submitted: 19/06/2006
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Why has Donne's poetry been described as 'Metaphysical'?

To answer this question one needs to define the term 'Metaphysical' because, although it can be applied to any poetry dealing with spiritual or philosophical matter, it is complicated by the fact that it is now generally only applied to a group of seventeenth century poets. Therefore as David Reid has aptly remarked it is a "particularly fuzzy term" and therefore it is "futile to try for watertight definition". The first problem is that behind the term, 'Metaphysical,' lies a history of different critical approaches - Giordano Bruno, the first critic to attempt a conceptual formulation of "concettismo", as the 'Metaphysical' style was known in Italy, concluded that 'Metaphysical poetry' was essentially concerned with perceiving and expressing the universal correspondence in his universe. However, Samuel Johnson wrote that "about the beginning of the seventeenth century [in England] there appeared a race" of Metaphysical poets and therefore the problem is that there are different descents of critical views about the term.

Furthermore Johnson talks of a "race" of these poets but the problem is that there is not such a line of descent as this statement would suggest. There

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