Metaphysical Poets of the Renaissance

Metaphysical Poets of the Renaissance
"Metaphysical poetry" is a description of a type of poetry ascribed to a group of English poets of the 16th and 17th centuries. The term metaphysical poetry was first used by Samuel Johnson in 1744, after the end of the period. It refers to the fact that the poetry dealt with philosophical speculation and abstract ideas, along with a great deal of irony, paradox, and striking comparisons of dissimilar things.

This group of poets was primarily influenced by John Donne. Thomas Carew's (1594 - 1640) poem, Elegy upon the Death of Dr. John Donne, notes Donne's renewal of English poetry from worn-out conventions. The poetry of the Metaphysical poets was considered to be quite revolutionary by the scholars who came after them. In fact, the work of these poets was disliked by many of their immediate successors who largely ignored the poetic form for some 200 years after the period.

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy having to do with the concepts of "being" and "knowing." It covers concepts such as "What does it mean to exist? How do we know? How can we be sure we know? What can we know?"

Metaphysical poets attempted to answer these questions with the use of the following devices:

- metaphysical concepts
- a reliance on intellectual wit
- subtle argument
- specific types of imagery.

For example, most Metaphysical poetry is laid out in the form of a debate, wherein a case is being made for or against somebody or something - much like cases that lawyers of today develop and present in court.

In essence, Metaphysical poems are lyrical works concerned with the whole experience of man including love, man's relationship with God, pleasure, science, learning and art.


- Death as Friend or Foe
- Separation and Absence
- Personal Sinfulness and Unworthiness
- The Loss of Innocence
- The Transcience of Life
- Being Human
- Personal Freedom
- Writing as Poet or Priest

Following is a list of the poets considered most important to the metaphysical poetry movement and a partial list of their poems. Their work is considered to have greatly influenced the poetry of the 20th century.

John Donne - (1572-1631)
- Aire and Angels
- A Hymn to God the Father
- A Hymn to God, my God, in my Sicknesse
- A Nocturnall upon St. Lucies day
- At the Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners
- A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- A Valediction: of Weeping
- Batter my heart
- Death be not Proud
- Elegie XIX: Going to Bed
- Elegie XVI: On his Mistris
- Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
- Lovers' Infiniteness
- Oh my blacke Soule!
- Satyre III: 'On Religion'
- Show me Deare Christ
- Since She Whom I Lov'd
- Song: Goe, and catche a falling starre
- The Anniversarie
- The Dreame
- The Extasie
- The Flea
- The Good-morrow
- The Sunne Rising
- This is my playes last scene
- Twicknam Garden
- What if this present

George Herbert - (1593-1633)
- Aaron
- Affliction
- Death
- Discipline
- Easter Wings
- Jordan I
- Jordan II
- Life
- Love II
- Man
- Prayer I
- Redemption
- The Church-floore
- The Collar
- Vertue

Richard Crashaw - (c.1613-1649)
- Hymn in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
- Hymn to St Teresa
- St Mary Magdalene, or the Weeper
- To the Countesse of Denbigh

Henry Vaughan - (1622-1695)
- Ascension - Hymn
- Man
- Regeneration
- The Night
- The Retreate
- The Water-fall

Andrew Marvell - (1621-1678)
- A Dialogue between Soul and Body
- On a Drop of Dew
- The Coronet
- The Definition of Love
- The Garden
- The Mower Against Gardens
- The Mower to the Glo-Worms
- The Mower's Song
- The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun
- The Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers
- To his Coy Mistress
- Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax

Thomas Carew - (1595-1640)
- An Elegie upon the Death of the Deane of Paul's Dr John Donne
- To a Lady that Desired I would Love her

Henry King - (1592-1669)
- The Exequy

Richard Lovelace - (1618-1657)
- To Althea, from Prison
- The Grasse-hopper: Ode

Abraham Cowley - (1618-1667)
- Ode: Of Wit

Katherine Philips - (1632-1664)
- To my Lucasia in defence of declared friendship
- To my Excellent Lucasia, on our Friendship

John Cleveland - (1613-1658)
- Upon Phillis Walking in a Morning before Sun-rising

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You Should Also Read:
John Donne - Metaphysical Poet

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