6 Oct 2021

John Donne as a Metaphysical Poet/ MA English Part.1 Syllabus Punjab University


Donne as a Metaphysical poet

John Donne is a poet who gave a new direction to the English poetry. He is rightly called the founder of metaphysical poetry. It was Dr. Johnson who uses the phrase metaphysical poets in 1781. He finds a group of poets who use extra ordinary wit, paradoxes, obscure conceits and comparisons in their poetry. It was a group of about twenty poets but most of all John Donne was prominent.

Metaphysical poetry means a type of poetry in which the poet uses highly intellectualized conceits, paradoxes, complexity and subtlety of thoughts. Metaphysical means the study of what cannot be reached through objective approach of material reality. After the decline of greater poetry of Elizabethan period, a school of metaphysical poets arose and Donne was the leader of that school of thought.

“A poet who gave much more than what he borrowed from his age.”

The metaphysical were men of learning and their chief priority was to show off their learning. They discussed everything pedagogically and their ideas and thoughts were new one. They revolted against the Petrarchan style of poetry and set a new trend before the upcoming poets. The other poets liked it and follow their style in the upcoming poetic revolution.

All prominent qualities of metaphysical poetry is found in the poetry of John Donne. Dryden says about Donne, “He effects the metaphysics.” He yokes two heterogeneous ideas together, uses his wit, and employs conceits and far-fetched similes in his poems. The flea becomes a marriage bed because it bites the beloved after biting the poet. It becomes a union of lover and beloved s’ blood. It is called as a marriage temple.

“The flea is you and I and this

Our marriage –bed, and marriage temple is.”


The Sunne Rising” is another passionate poem. The loving couple is not afraid of the sun which has risen because love is not indebted to clime and season. The poet scolds the sun for disturbing the loving couple. He shows his beloved superiority over the powerful beams of the sun. For the poet everything is his beloved.


“She is all states and all princes I,

Nothing else is.”

One of the chief characteristics of metaphysical poetry is and exhibition of learning and scholasticism. As per this definition, Donne is a metaphysical poet. He sets forth in his poetry no ordered system of the universe. The ordered system of Dante was breaking into pieces while Donne lived.


“And new philosophy calls all in doubt….

…..can well direct him where to look for it.”


In “The Relique”, Donne imagines himself lying in a grave as a skeleton with the undeniable token of spiritual love  in the sphere of his beloved s’ bright lock of hair forming a bracelet round his wrist and because of their great love he and his beloved will be honored like saints.


“All women shall adore us and some men.”


In the poem, “The Ecstasy” The soul of the two lovers come out of their bodies and negotiate with each other, though finally they return to their bodies. He often relates those phenomenons which lie beyond normal physical experiences, with those which can be physically experienced.


To sum up the discussion, we can say that John Donne is a metaphysical poet in real sense. His poetry is highly intellectualized. He uses farfetched similes and extraordinary conceits in his poems. He revolted against the Petrarchan type of emotional poetry and devised and set new ways before the contemporary poets.


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