Metaphysical Poets


This has been written for undergraduates and the general reader who is interested in the study of poetry. The poems considered explicitly here are these:
by John Donne, The Good-Morrow, The Sunne Rising, The Anniversarie, The Canonization, A Valediction Forbidding Mourning and A Nocturnall upon S. Lucies Day by George Herbert, Jordan (I), The Pearl, The Collar, Discipline and Love (III) by Andrew Marvell, The Coronet, Bermudas, To His Coy Mistress, The Definition of Love and The Garden by Henry Vaughan, The Retreate, The World, Man and “They Are All Gone into the World of Light”

The term "metaphysical" when applied to poetry has a long and interesting history. You should know this, but the information in Helen Gardner's Introduction to The Metaphysical Poets (Penguin) is more than adequate. Luckily, Metaphysical poetry is concerned with the whole experience of man, but the intelligence, learning and seriousness of the poets means that the poetry is about the profound areas of experience especially - about love, romantic and sensual; about man's relationship with God - the eternal perspective, and, to a less extent, about pleasure, learning and art. Metaphysical poems are lyric poems. They are brief but intense meditations, characterized by striking use of wit, irony and wordplay. Beneath the formal structure (of rhyme, metre and stanza) is the underlying (and often hardly less formal) structure of the poem's argument. Note that there may be two (or more) kinds of argument in a poem. In To His Coy Mistress the explicit argument (Marvell's request that the coy lady yield to his passion) is a stalking horse for the more serious argument about the transitoriness of pleasure. The outward levity conceals (barely) a deep seriousness of intent. You would be able to show how this theme of carpe diem (“seize the day”) is made clear in the third section of the poem. Reflections on love or God should not be too hard for you. Writing about a poet's...