Grierson's anthology of metaphysical poems is remembered chiefly because it prompted T.S. Eliot's essay on the metaphysical poets. In fact Grierson's introductory appraisal raised just the issues which Eliot took up (Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century: Donne to Butler, 1921, pp. xiv-xli).
[Grierson makes no question of Donne's stature. He takes Donne for a poet of the highest order, one of the consummate masters of English writing whose strange effects are proper to great poetry when they express so vividly a temperament in which seemingly unlike impulses of our nature come together. He finds that Donne and his seventeenth-century heirs are metaphysical poets in a special way, and spends much of his introduction in pondering the distinction of their writing.
Grierson argues that the term 'metaphysical' is aptly used of the poems he presents.]
Donne is familiar with the definitions and distinctions of Mediaeval Scholasticism [and] is metaphysical not only in virtue of his scholasticism, but by his deep reflective interest in the experiences of which his poetry is the expression, the new psychological curiosity with which he writes of love and religion.
[The divine poets who followed Donne have each the inherited metaphysics of their Church. But none have for main theme a metaphysic like that of Epicurus or St Thomas.]
Donne, the most thoughtful and imaginative of them, is more aware of disintegration than of comprehensive harmony.
[He is acutely aware of the clash between the older physics and metaphysics and the new science of Copernicus, Galileo, Vesalius, Bacon.
Lucretius and Dante are metaphysical poets, Milton is a grand mythmaker. Grierson allows that Donne and his followers are not metaphysical in any such large way. But the word better describes the peculiar quality of their poetry than any other which has been proposed, such as 'fantastic'.]