Who were the Metaphysical Poets?
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Who were the Metaphysical Poets?. John Donne (1572 - 1631). Andrew Marvell (1621 - 1678). Richard Crashaw (1613 - 1649) Henry Vaughan (1622 - 1695) Bishop King Lord Herbert Aurelian Townsend. George Herbert (1593 - 1633). Characteristics. 17th century

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Who were the Metaphysical Poets?

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Who were the metaphysical poets

Who were the Metaphysical Poets?

John Donne

(1572 - 1631)

Andrew Marvell

(1621 - 1678)

Richard Crashaw (1613 - 1649)

Henry Vaughan (1622 - 1695)

Bishop King

Lord Herbert

Aurelian Townsend

George Herbert

(1593 - 1633)



  • 17th century

  • “simple, artificial, difficult or fantastic”

  • the language was usually simple and pure

  • elaborate metaphysical conceits (Valediction Forbidding Mourning)

  • rapid association of thought challenging the reader to keep up with it (Valediction of Weeping)

  • telescoping of images (The Relic) -- the contrast and multiple possible associations (like with Shakespeare)

  • an incredible focus on technique

  • Johnson said, “Their attempts were always analytic”

Who were the metaphysical poets

The Metaphysical Poets and the New Criticism

  • 300 years later, New Criticism re-focused on these poets

  • T. S. Eliot called them intellectual poets (rather than reflective):

    • an ordinary man would smell a rose and then go read his newspaper, never connecting the two

    • a reflective poet would immediately gush (write a poem) about the odor of the rose and never get to his newspaper

    • an intellectual poet,however, would somehow connect these two very disparate events and form them into a new whole

    • metaphysical united the intellectual with the emotional while the romantics merely “ruminated”

    • some say their poetry is too technical. Eliot said poets must do more than “look into their hearts to write . . . That is not looking deep enough; . . . Donne looked into a good deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral cortex, the nervous system and the digestive tracts.”

Characteristics cont

Characteristics, cont.

“Easter Wings”

by George Herbert

A portion of

“The Wasteland”

by T. S. Eliot

Who were the metaphysical poets

Dr. Ray Fleming


Professor Ray Fleming received his undergraduate degree in modern languages, philosophy, and English from the University of Notre Dame. He studied philosophy and Renaissance literature as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Florence. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Harvard where he received his doctorate in comparative literature. Professor Fleming taught at the University of Notre Dame, the University of California, Miami University (Ohio), Le Centre Universitaire in Luxembourg, and at Penn State University before coming to Florida State in 1995 as a professor of modern languages and humanities. His primary areas of publication include Italian, German, and English literatures, and African American Studies.

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