Beers (1847-1926) was an American author and poet, and Professor of English at Yale. As a scholar Beers was primarily interested in Romanticism, publishing the History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century (1899; see No. 45) and the History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century (1901). In From Chaucer to Tennyson (1898), he spoke of a new style in poetry at the end of the seventeenth century which was variously known as the Metaphysical school, the fantastic or conceited school, or 'English Marinists or Gongorists after the poets Marino and Gongora, who brought this fashion to its extreme in Italy and in Spain' (From Chaucer to Tennyson, 1898, pp. 105-7).
The one who set the fashion was Dr John Donne, Dean of St Paul's, whom Dryden pronounced a great wit, but not a great poet, and whom Ben Jonson esteemed the best poet in the world for some things, but likely to be forgotten for want of being understood. Besides satires and epistles in verse, he composed amatory poems in his youth, and divine poems in his age, both kinds distinguished by such subtle obscurity, and far-fetched ingenuities, that they read like a series of puzzles. When this poet has occasion to write a valediction to his mistress upon going into France, he compares their temporary separation to that of a pair of compasses:
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like the other foot obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
If he would persuade her to marriage he calls her attention to a flea-
Me it sucked first and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
He says that the flea is their marriage-temple, and bids her forbear to kill it lest she thereby commit murder, suicide and sacrilege all in one. Donne's figures are scholastic and smell of the lamp. He