Four Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw

By Joan Bennett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTORY

The extent to which images are discordant depends upon the extent to which we unfold them, and that is wholly within the poet's control, for it in turn depends primarily upon the rhythm and tempo of the writing.

MIDDLETON MURRY, Countries of the Mind

Neither are these only similitudes, as men of narrow observation may conceive them to be, but the same footsteps of nature, treading or printing upon several subjects or matters.

FRANCIS BACON, Advancement of Learning

THE term metaphysical, as applied to a group of poets who wrote under the influence of John Donne, has been consecrated by use since Dryden first employed it, in his dedication to A Discourse concerning the Original and Progress of Satire. It is not altogether a happy term, since it gives the impression that metaphysical poetry discusses the nature of the universe, in short, that, as Dryden assures the Earl of Dorset, 'Donne perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts and entertain them with the softnesses of love'. But Donne and the poets most influenced by him were not speculating about the nature of things as, for instance, Milton does in Paradise Lost or Pope in The Essay on Man or Tennyson in In Memoriam (for there is a similar motive in these three poems, despite all differences of temperament and of treatment). When Donne writes

At the round earths imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
of soules, . . .1

____________________
1
Holy Sonnet VII.

-1-

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Four Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION v
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents ix
  • Chapter I - Introductory 1
  • Chapter II - John Donne, 1573-1631 13
  • Chapter III - Donne's Technical Originality 30
  • Chapter IV - George Herbert, 1593-1633 49
  • Chapter V - Henry Vaughan, 1622-1695 71
  • Chapter VI - Richard Crashaw, 1613?-1649 90
  • Chapter VII - Religious Poetry: A Postscript 109
  • BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 121
  • Index 123
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