The Metaphysical Passion: Seven Modern American Poets and the Seventeenth-Century Tradition

The Metaphysical Passion: Seven Modern American Poets and the Seventeenth-Century Tradition

The Metaphysical Passion: Seven Modern American Poets and the Seventeenth-Century Tradition

The Metaphysical Passion: Seven Modern American Poets and the Seventeenth-Century Tradition

Excerpt

METAPHYSICAL POETRY defines a special poetic syndrome experienced at many moments in literary history. Only twice, however, has the designation been critically assigned to an estimable group of poets writing in English in the same period. Borrowed from philosophy, the epithet was first linked to seventeenth-century English poetry in its own time. And again, in the last two generations, the prevalence of the metaphysical impulse as a documented phenomenon has given the term eminence. Our contribution is rich not alone in this kind of verse but in its scholarship and developed criticism. The present study reviews certain illustrative American poets extending metaphysical statement in the twentieth century, the relationship to their progenitors, and the cognate cultural forces of both ages.

An impressive school of critics has been examining these two literatures. Particularly attracted to the seventeenth-century metaphysicals, T. S. Eliot at one time proposed to devote to them not only the intermittent essay but perhaps a book. Eventually he abandoned his project, unable to account for their revived reputation and John Donne's "general emergence towards tercentenary fame." Yet he continued to enhance Donne's renown by his own critique and poetry. Archibald MacLeish, also admittedly indebted to the Elizabethan and metaphysical poets, in more recent years moved to the literary field of social revolt and lately intellectual patriotism. Such changes should signify that the modern metaphysical impetus reached its apogee in the late twenties and early thirties. In spite of the surfeit Eliot and others may feel, a study of this verse, with its social and psychological implications, still seems useful. Critics still refer to the metaphysical tendency, and always some oncoming poets continue to exemplify it.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.