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"The Metaphysical Poets"
First published in the Times Literary Supplement, 20
October 1921.

By collecting these poems from the work of a generation
more often
named than read, and more often read than profitably
studied,
Professor Grierson has rendered a service of some
importance.
Certainly the reader will meet with many poems already
preserved in
other anthologies, at the same time that he discovers poems
such as
those of Aurelian Townshend or Lord Herbert of Cherbury here
included. But the function of such an anthology as this is
neither
that of Professor Saintsbury's admirable edition of
Caroline poets
nor that of the Oxford Book of English Verse. Mr.
Grierson's book is
in itself a piece of criticism, and a provocation of
criticism; and
we think that he was right in including so many poems of
Donne,
elsewhere (though not in many editions) accessible, as
documents in
the case of 'metaphysical poetry'. The phrase has long done
duty as a
term of abuse, or as the label of a quaint and pleasant
taste. The
question is to what extent the so-called metaphysicals
formed a
school (in our own time we should say a 'movement'), and
how far this
so-called school or movement is a digression from the main
current.Not only is it extremely difficult to define
metaphysical
poetry, but difficult to decide what poets practice it and
in which
of their verses. The poetry of Donne (to whom Marvell and
Bishop King
are sometimes nearer than any of the other authors) is late
Elizabethan, its feeling often very close to that of
Chapman.
The 'courtly' poetry is derivative from Jonson, who borrowed
liberally from the Latin; it expires in the next century
with the
sentiment and witticism of Prior. There is finally the
devotional
verse of Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw (echoed long after by
Christina Rossetti and Francis Thompson); Crashaw,
sometimes more
profound and less sectarian than the others, has a quality
which
returns through the Elizabethan period to the early
Italians. It is
difficult to find any precise use of metaphor, simile, or
other
conceit, which is common to all the poets and at the same
time
important enough as an element of style to isolate these
poets as a
group. Donne, and often Cowley, employ a device which is
sometimes
considered characteristically 'metaphysical'; the
elaboration
(contrasted with the condensation) of a figure of speech to
the
furthest stage to which ingenuity can carry it. Thus Cowley
develops
the commonplace comparison of the world to a chess-board
through long
stanzas ("To Destiny"), and Donne, with more grace, in "A
Valediction," the comparison of two lovers to a pair of
compasses.
But elsewhere we find, instead of the mere explication of
the content
of a comparison, a development by rapid association of
thought which
requires considerable agility on the part of the reader.

On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All,
So cloth each teare,
Which thee cloth weare,
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved
so.
Here we find at least two connections which are not
implicit in the
first figure, but are forced upon it by the poet: from the
geographer's globe to the tear, and the tear to the deluge.
On the
other hand, some of Donne's most successful and
characteristic
effects are secured by brief words and sudden contrasts:
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
where the most powerful effect is produced by the sudden
contrast of
associations of 'bright hair' and of 'bore'. This
telescoping of
images and multiplied associations is characteristic of the
phrase of
some of the dramatists of the period which Donne knew: not
to mention
Shakespeare, it is frequent in Middleton, Webster, and
Tourneur, and
is one of the sources of the vitality of their
language.Johnson, who
employed the term 'metaphysical poets', apparently having
Donne,
Cleveland, and Cowley chiefly in mind, remarks of them
that 'the most
heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'. The
force of
this impeachment lies in the failure of the conjunction,
the fact
that often the ideas are yoked but not united; and if we
are to judge
of styles of poetry by their abuse, enough examples may be
found in
Cleveland to justify Johnson's condemnation. But a degree of
heterogeneity of material compelled into unity by the
operation of
the poet's mind is omnipresent in poetry. We need not
select for
illustration such a line as:
Notre ame est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie;
we may find it in some of the best lines of Johnson himself
("The
Vanity of Human Wishes"):
His fate was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
where the effect is due to a contrast of ideas, different
in degree
but the same in principle, as that which Johnson mildly
reprehended.
And in one of the finest poems of the age (a poem which
could not
have been written in any other age), the "Exequy" of Bishop
King, the
extended comparison is used with perfect success: the idea
and the
simile become one, in the passage in which the Bishop
illustrates his
impatience to see his dead wife, under the figure of a
journey:
Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way, And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And ev'ry houre a step towards thee.
At night when I retake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my West
Of life, almost by eight houres sail,
Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale....
But heark! My Pulse, like a soft Drum
Beats my approach, tells Thee I come;
And slow howere my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by Thee
.
(In the last few lines there is that effect of terror which
is
several times attained by one of Bishop King's admirers,
Edgar Poe.)
Again, we may justly take these quatrains from Lord
Herbert's Ode,
stanzas which would, we think, be immediately pronounced to
be of the
metaphysical school:
So when from hence we shall he gone,
And he no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall he both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes, which did that beauty crown,
Were like two starrs, that having faln down,
Look up again to find their place:

While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.

There is nothing in these lines (with the possible
exception of the
stars, a simile not at once grasped, but lovely and
justified) which
fits Johnson's general observations on the metaphysical
poets in his
essay on Cowley. A good deal resides in the richness of
association
which is at the same time borrowed from and given to the
word 'becalmed'; but the meaning is clear, the language
simple and
elegant. It is to be observed that the language of these
poets is as
a rule simple and pure; in the verse of George Herbert this
simplicity is carried as far as it can go - a simplicity
emulated
without success by numerous modern poets. The structure of
the
sentences, on the other hand, is sometimes far from simple,
but this
is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling. The
effect,
at its best, is far less artificial than that of an ode by
Gray. And
as this fidelity induces variety of thought and feeling, so
it
induces variety of music. We doubt whether, in the
eighteenth
century, could be found two poems in nominally the same
metre, so
dissimilar as Marvell's "Coy Mistress" and Crashaw's "Saint
Teresa";
the one producing an effect of great speed by the use of
short
syllables, and the other an ecclesiastical solemnity by the
use of
long ones:
Love thou art absolute sole lord
Of life and death.
If so shrewd and sensitive (though so limited) a critic as
Johnson
failed to define metaphysical poetry by its faults, it is
worth while
to inquire whether we may not have more success by adopting
the
opposite method: by assuming that the poets of the
seventeenth
century (up to the Revolution) were the direct and normal
development
of the precedent age; and, without prejudicing their case
by the
adjective 'metaphysical', consider whether their virtue was
not
something permanently valuable, which subsequently
disappeared, but
ought not to have disappeared. Johnson has hit, perhaps by
accident,
on one of their peculiarities, when he observed that 'their
attempts
were always analytic'; he would not agree that, after the
dissociation, they put the material together again in a new
unity.It
is certain that the dramatic verse of the later Elizabethan
and early
Jacobean poets expresses a degree of development of
sensibility which
is not found in any of the prose, good as it often is. If
we except
Marlowe, a man of prodigious intelligence, these dramatists
were
directly or indirectly (it is at least a tenable theory)
affected by
Montaigne Even if we except also Jonson and Chapman, these
two were
notably erudite, and were notably men who incorporated their
erudition into their sensibility: their mode of feeling was
directly
and freshly altered by their reading and thought. In Chapman
especially there is a direct sensuous apprehension of
thought, or a
recreation of thought into feeling, which is exactly what
we find in
Donne:
in this one thing, all the discipline
Of manners and of manhood is contained
A man to join himself with th' Universe
In his main sway, and make in all things fit
One with that All, and go on, round as it
Not plucking from the whole his wretched part
And into straits, or into nought revert,
Wishing the complete Universe might be
Subject to such a rag of it as he;
But to consider great Necessity.
We compare this with some moder passage:
No, when the fight begins within himself
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet - both tug -
He's left, himself i' the middle; the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
It is perhaps somewhat less fair, though very tempting as
both poets
are concerned with the perpetuation of love by offspring,
to compare
with the stanzas already quoted from Lord Herbert's Ode the
following
from Tennyson:
One walked between wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good
Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.
The difference is not a simple difference of degree between
poets. It
is something which had happened to the mind of England
between the
time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of
Tennyson
and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual
poet and
the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and
they think;
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the
odour of a
rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his
sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for
its work,
it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the
ordinary
man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The
latter falls
in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have
nothing to
do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or
the smell
of cooking; m the mind of the poet these experiences are
always
forming new wholes.We may express the difference by the
following
theory: The poets of the seventeenth century, the
successors of the
dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of
sensibility
which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple,
artificial, difficult, or fantastic, as their predecessors
were; no
less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or
Cino. In
the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from
which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is
natural,
was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful
poets of the
century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed
certain
poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude
of the
effect concealed the absence of others. The language went
on and in
some respects improved; the best verse of Collins, Gray,
Johnson, and
even Goldsmith satisfies some of our fastidious demands
better than
that of Donne or Marvell or King. But while the language
became more
refined, the feeling became more crude. The feeling, the
sensibility,
expressed in the "Country Churchyard" (to say nothing of
Tennyson and
Browning) is cruder than that in the"Coy Mistress."The
second effect
of the influence of Milton and Dryden followed from the
first, and
was therefore slow in manifestation. The sentimental age
began early
in the eighteenth century, and continued. The poets
revolted against
the ratiocinative, the descriptive; they thought and felt
by fits,
unbalanced; they reflected. In one or two passages of
Shelley's "Triumph of Life," in the second "Hyperion" there
are
traces of a struggle toward unification of sensibility. But
Keats and
Shelley died, and Tennyson and Browning ruminated.After
this brief
exposition of a theory - too brief, perhaps, to carry
conviction - we
may ask, what would have been the fate of
the 'metaphysical' had the
current of poetry descended in a direct line from them, as
it
descended in a direct line to them ? They would not,
certainly, be
classified as metaphysical. The possible interests of a
poet are
unlimited; the more intelligent he is the better; the more
intelligent he is the more likely that he will have
interests: our
only condition is that he turn them into poetry, and not
merely
meditate on them poetically. A philosophical theory which
has entered
into poetry is established, for its truth or falsity in one
sense
ceases to matter, and its truth in another sense is proved.
The poets
in question have, like other poets, various faults. But
they were, at
best, engaged in the task of trying to find the verbal
equivalent for
states of mind and feeling. And this means both that they
are more
mature, and that they wear better, than later poets of
certainly not
less literary ability.It is not a permanent necessity that
poets
should be interested in philosophy, or in any other
subject. We can
only say that it appears likely that poets in our
civilization, as it
exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization
comprehends
great variety and complexity, and this variety and
complexity,
playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various
and complex
results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive,
more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if
necessary, language into his meaning. (A brilliant and
extreme
statement of this view, with which it is not requisite to
associate
oneself, is that of M. Jean Epstein, "La Poesie d'aujourd-
hui.")
Hence we get something which looks very much like the
conceit - we
get, in fact, a method curiously similar to that of
the 'metaphysical
poets', similar also in its use of obscure words and of
simple
phrasing.
O geraniums diaphanes, guerroyeurs sortileges,
Sacrileges monomanes!
Emballages, devergondages, douches! O pressoirs
Des vendanges des grands soirs!
Layettes aux abois,
Thyrses au fond des bois!
Transfusions, represailles,
Relevailles, compresses et l'eternal potion,
Angelus! n'en pouvoir plus
De de'bacles nuptiales! de debacles nuptiales!
The same poet could write also simply:
Wile est bien loin, elle pleure,
Le grand vent se lamente aussi . .
Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems,
are nearer
to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. But
poets more
classical than they have the same essential quality of
transmuting
ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into
a state of
mind.
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est egal a son vaste appetit.
Ah, que le monde est grand a la clarte des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
In French literature the great master of the seventeenth
century
Racine - and the great master of the nineteenth -
Baudelaire - are in
some ways more like each other than they are like anyone
else. The
greatest two masters of diction are also the greatest two
psychologists, the most curious explorers of the soul. It is
interesting to speculate whether it is not a misfortune
that two of
the greatest masters of diction in our language, Milton and
Dryden,
triumph with a dazzling disregard of the soul. If we
continued to
produce Miltons and Drydens it might not so much matter,
but as
things are it is a pity that English poetry has remained so
incomplete. Those who object to the 'artificiality' of
Milton or
Dryden sometimes tell us to 'look into our hearts and
write'. But
that is not looking deep enough; Racine or Donne looked
into a good
deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral
cortex, the
nervous system, and the digestive tracts.May we not
conclude, then,
that Donne, Crashaw, Vaughan, Herbert and Lord Herbert,
Marvell,
King, Cowley at his best, are in the direct current of
English
poetry, and that their faults should be reprimanded by this
standard
rather than coddled by antiquarian affection ? They have
been enough
praised in terms which are implicit limitations because they
are 'metaphysical' or 'witty', 'quaint' or 'obscure',
though at their
best they have not these attributes more than other serious
poets. On
the other hand we must not reject the criticism of Johnson
(a
dangerous person to disagree with) without having mastered
it,
without having assimilated the Johnsonian canons of taste.
In reading
the celebrated passage in his essay on Cowley we must
remember that
by wit he clearly means something more serious than we
usually mean
today; in his criticism of their versification we must
remember in
what a narrow discipline he was trained, but also how well
trained;
we must remember that Johnson tortures chiefly the chief
offenders,
Cowley and Cleveland. It would be a fruitful work, and one
requiring
a substantial book, to break up the classification of
Johnson (for
there has been none since) and exhibit these poets in all
their
difference of kind and of degree, from the massive music of
Donne to
the faint, pleasing tinkle of Aurelian Townshend -
whose "Dialogue
between a Pilgrim and Time" is one of the few regrettable
omissions
from the excellent anthology of Professor Grierson.

The term "Metaphysical Poet" was first coined by the critic
Samuel
Johnson (1709-1784) and he used it as a disparaging term.
Earlier,
John Dryden had also been critical of the group of poets he
grouped
together as too proud of their wit. Johnson and Dryden
valued the
clarity, restraint and shapeliness of the poets of Augustan
Rome
(which is why some 18th century poets are
called "Augustan," and
therefore were antagonistic towards poets of the mid-17th
century.
The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18th
and 19th
centuries (obviously, the Romantic poets found little in
this heavily
intellectualized poetry). At the end of the 19th century
and in the
beginning of the 20th century, interest in this group
picked up, and
especially important was T.S. Eliot's famous essay "The
Metaphysical
Poets" (1921). Interest peaked this century with the New
Critics
school around mid-century, and now is tempering off a bit,
though
Donne, the original "Big Name" is being superceded now by
interest
in George Herbert, who's religious seeking and questioning
seems to
be hitting a critical nerve
Will Dockery
2016-03-13 16:21:29 UTC
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Post by a***@coolgroups.com
"The Metaphysical Poets"
First published in the Times Literary Supplement, 20
October 1921.
By collecting these poems from the work of a generation
more often
named than read, and more often read than profitably
studied,
Professor Grierson has rendered a service of some
importance.
Certainly the reader will meet with many poems already
preserved in
other anthologies, at the same time that he discovers poems
such as
those of Aurelian Townshend or Lord Herbert of Cherbury here
included. But the function of such an anthology as this is
neither
that of Professor Saintsbury's admirable edition of
Caroline poets
nor that of the Oxford Book of English Verse. Mr.
Grierson's book is
in itself a piece of criticism, and a provocation of
criticism; and
we think that he was right in including so many poems of
Donne,
elsewhere (though not in many editions) accessible, as
documents in
the case of 'metaphysical poetry'. The phrase has long done
duty as a
term of abuse, or as the label of a quaint and pleasant
taste. The
question is to what extent the so-called metaphysicals
formed a
school (in our own time we should say a 'movement'), and
how far this
so-called school or movement is a digression from the main
current.Not only is it extremely difficult to define
metaphysical
poetry, but difficult to decide what poets practice it and
in which
of their verses. The poetry of Donne (to whom Marvell and
Bishop King
are sometimes nearer than any of the other authors) is late
Elizabethan, its feeling often very close to that of
Chapman.
The 'courtly' poetry is derivative from Jonson, who borrowed
liberally from the Latin; it expires in the next century
with the
sentiment and witticism of Prior. There is finally the
devotional
verse of Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw (echoed long after by
Christina Rossetti and Francis Thompson); Crashaw,
sometimes more
profound and less sectarian than the others, has a quality
which
returns through the Elizabethan period to the early
Italians. It is
difficult to find any precise use of metaphor, simile, or
other
conceit, which is common to all the poets and at the same
time
important enough as an element of style to isolate these
poets as a
group. Donne, and often Cowley, employ a device which is
sometimes
considered characteristically 'metaphysical'; the
elaboration
(contrasted with the condensation) of a figure of speech to
the
furthest stage to which ingenuity can carry it. Thus Cowley
develops
the commonplace comparison of the world to a chess-board
through long
stanzas ("To Destiny"), and Donne, with more grace, in "A
Valediction," the comparison of two lovers to a pair of
compasses.
But elsewhere we find, instead of the mere explication of
the content
of a comparison, a development by rapid association of
thought which
requires considerable agility on the part of the reader.
On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All,
So cloth each teare,
Which thee cloth weare,
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved
so.
Here we find at least two connections which are not
implicit in the
first figure, but are forced upon it by the poet: from the
geographer's globe to the tear, and the tear to the deluge.
On the
other hand, some of Donne's most successful and
characteristic
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
where the most powerful effect is produced by the sudden
contrast of
associations of 'bright hair' and of 'bore'. This
telescoping of
images and multiplied associations is characteristic of the
phrase of
some of the dramatists of the period which Donne knew: not
to mention
Shakespeare, it is frequent in Middleton, Webster, and
Tourneur, and
is one of the sources of the vitality of their
language.Johnson, who
employed the term 'metaphysical poets', apparently having
Donne,
Cleveland, and Cowley chiefly in mind, remarks of them
that 'the most
heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'. The
force of
this impeachment lies in the failure of the conjunction,
the fact
that often the ideas are yoked but not united; and if we
are to judge
of styles of poetry by their abuse, enough examples may be
found in
Cleveland to justify Johnson's condemnation. But a degree of
heterogeneity of material compelled into unity by the
operation of
the poet's mind is omnipresent in poetry. We need not
select for
Notre ame est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie;
we may find it in some of the best lines of Johnson himself
("The
His fate was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
where the effect is due to a contrast of ideas, different
in degree
but the same in principle, as that which Johnson mildly
reprehended.
And in one of the finest poems of the age (a poem which
could not
have been written in any other age), the "Exequy" of Bishop
King, the
extended comparison is used with perfect success: the idea
and the
simile become one, in the passage in which the Bishop
illustrates his
impatience to see his dead wife, under the figure of a
Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way, And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And ev'ry houre a step towards thee.
At night when I retake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my West
Of life, almost by eight houres sail,
Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale....
But heark! My Pulse, like a soft Drum
Beats my approach, tells Thee I come;
And slow howere my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by Thee
.
(In the last few lines there is that effect of terror which
is
several times attained by one of Bishop King's admirers,
Edgar Poe.)
Again, we may justly take these quatrains from Lord
Herbert's Ode,
stanzas which would, we think, be immediately pronounced to
be of the
So when from hence we shall he gone,
And he no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall he both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes, which did that beauty crown,
Were like two starrs, that having faln down,
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.
There is nothing in these lines (with the possible
exception of the
stars, a simile not at once grasped, but lovely and
justified) which
fits Johnson's general observations on the metaphysical
poets in his
essay on Cowley. A good deal resides in the richness of
association
which is at the same time borrowed from and given to the
word 'becalmed'; but the meaning is clear, the language
simple and
elegant. It is to be observed that the language of these
poets is as
a rule simple and pure; in the verse of George Herbert this
simplicity is carried as far as it can go - a simplicity
emulated
without success by numerous modern poets. The structure of
the
sentences, on the other hand, is sometimes far from simple,
but this
is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling. The
effect,
at its best, is far less artificial than that of an ode by
Gray. And
as this fidelity induces variety of thought and feeling, so
it
induces variety of music. We doubt whether, in the
eighteenth
century, could be found two poems in nominally the same
metre, so
dissimilar as Marvell's "Coy Mistress" and Crashaw's "Saint
Teresa";
the one producing an effect of great speed by the use of
short
syllables, and the other an ecclesiastical solemnity by the
use of
Love thou art absolute sole lord
Of life and death.
If so shrewd and sensitive (though so limited) a critic as
Johnson
failed to define metaphysical poetry by its faults, it is
worth while
to inquire whether we may not have more success by adopting
the
opposite method: by assuming that the poets of the
seventeenth
century (up to the Revolution) were the direct and normal
development
of the precedent age; and, without prejudicing their case
by the
adjective 'metaphysical', consider whether their virtue was
not
something permanently valuable, which subsequently
disappeared, but
ought not to have disappeared. Johnson has hit, perhaps by
accident,
on one of their peculiarities, when he observed that 'their
attempts
were always analytic'; he would not agree that, after the
dissociation, they put the material together again in a new
unity.It
is certain that the dramatic verse of the later Elizabethan
and early
Jacobean poets expresses a degree of development of
sensibility which
is not found in any of the prose, good as it often is. If
we except
Marlowe, a man of prodigious intelligence, these dramatists
were
directly or indirectly (it is at least a tenable theory)
affected by
Montaigne Even if we except also Jonson and Chapman, these
two were
notably erudite, and were notably men who incorporated their
erudition into their sensibility: their mode of feeling was
directly
and freshly altered by their reading and thought. In Chapman
especially there is a direct sensuous apprehension of
thought, or a
recreation of thought into feeling, which is exactly what
we find in
in this one thing, all the discipline
Of manners and of manhood is contained
A man to join himself with th' Universe
In his main sway, and make in all things fit
One with that All, and go on, round as it
Not plucking from the whole his wretched part
And into straits, or into nought revert,
Wishing the complete Universe might be
Subject to such a rag of it as he;
But to consider great Necessity.
No, when the fight begins within himself
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet - both tug -
He's left, himself i' the middle; the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
It is perhaps somewhat less fair, though very tempting as
both poets
are concerned with the perpetuation of love by offspring,
to compare
with the stanzas already quoted from Lord Herbert's Ode the
following
One walked between wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good
Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.
The difference is not a simple difference of degree between
poets. It
is something which had happened to the mind of England
between the
time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of
Tennyson
and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual
poet and
the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and
they think;
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the
odour of a
rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his
sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for
its work,
it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the
ordinary
man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The
latter falls
in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have
nothing to
do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or
the smell
of cooking; m the mind of the poet these experiences are
always
forming new wholes.We may express the difference by the
following
theory: The poets of the seventeenth century, the
successors of the
dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of
sensibility
which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple,
artificial, difficult, or fantastic, as their predecessors
were; no
less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or
Cino. In
the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from
which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is
natural,
was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful
poets of the
century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed
certain
poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude
of the
effect concealed the absence of others. The language went
on and in
some respects improved; the best verse of Collins, Gray,
Johnson, and
even Goldsmith satisfies some of our fastidious demands
better than
that of Donne or Marvell or King. But while the language
became more
refined, the feeling became more crude. The feeling, the
sensibility,
expressed in the "Country Churchyard" (to say nothing of
Tennyson and
Browning) is cruder than that in the"Coy Mistress."The
second effect
of the influence of Milton and Dryden followed from the
first, and
was therefore slow in manifestation. The sentimental age
began early
in the eighteenth century, and continued. The poets
revolted against
the ratiocinative, the descriptive; they thought and felt
by fits,
unbalanced; they reflected. In one or two passages of
Shelley's "Triumph of Life," in the second "Hyperion" there
are
traces of a struggle toward unification of sensibility. But
Keats and
Shelley died, and Tennyson and Browning ruminated.After
this brief
exposition of a theory - too brief, perhaps, to carry
conviction - we
may ask, what would have been the fate of
the 'metaphysical' had the
current of poetry descended in a direct line from them, as
it
descended in a direct line to them ? They would not,
certainly, be
classified as metaphysical. The possible interests of a
poet are
unlimited; the more intelligent he is the better; the more
intelligent he is the more likely that he will have
interests: our
only condition is that he turn them into poetry, and not
merely
meditate on them poetically. A philosophical theory which
has entered
into poetry is established, for its truth or falsity in one
sense
ceases to matter, and its truth in another sense is proved.
The poets
in question have, like other poets, various faults. But
they were, at
best, engaged in the task of trying to find the verbal
equivalent for
states of mind and feeling. And this means both that they
are more
mature, and that they wear better, than later poets of
certainly not
less literary ability.It is not a permanent necessity that
poets
should be interested in philosophy, or in any other
subject. We can
only say that it appears likely that poets in our
civilization, as it
exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization
comprehends
great variety and complexity, and this variety and
complexity,
playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various
and complex
results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive,
more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if
necessary, language into his meaning. (A brilliant and
extreme
statement of this view, with which it is not requisite to
associate
oneself, is that of M. Jean Epstein, "La Poesie d'aujourd-
hui.")
Hence we get something which looks very much like the
conceit - we
get, in fact, a method curiously similar to that of
the 'metaphysical
poets', similar also in its use of obscure words and of
simple
phrasing.
O geraniums diaphanes, guerroyeurs sortileges,
Sacrileges monomanes!
Emballages, devergondages, douches! O pressoirs
Des vendanges des grands soirs!
Layettes aux abois,
Thyrses au fond des bois!
Transfusions, represailles,
Relevailles, compresses et l'eternal potion,
Angelus! n'en pouvoir plus
De de'bacles nuptiales! de debacles nuptiales!
Wile est bien loin, elle pleure,
Le grand vent se lamente aussi . .
Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems,
are nearer
to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. But
poets more
classical than they have the same essential quality of
transmuting
ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into
a state of
mind.
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est egal a son vaste appetit.
Ah, que le monde est grand a la clarte des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
In French literature the great master of the seventeenth
century
Racine - and the great master of the nineteenth -
Baudelaire - are in
some ways more like each other than they are like anyone
else. The
greatest two masters of diction are also the greatest two
psychologists, the most curious explorers of the soul. It is
interesting to speculate whether it is not a misfortune
that two of
the greatest masters of diction in our language, Milton and
Dryden,
triumph with a dazzling disregard of the soul. If we
continued to
produce Miltons and Drydens it might not so much matter,
but as
things are it is a pity that English poetry has remained so
incomplete. Those who object to the 'artificiality' of
Milton or
Dryden sometimes tell us to 'look into our hearts and
write'. But
that is not looking deep enough; Racine or Donne looked
into a good
deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral
cortex, the
nervous system, and the digestive tracts.May we not
conclude, then,
that Donne, Crashaw, Vaughan, Herbert and Lord Herbert,
Marvell,
King, Cowley at his best, are in the direct current of
English
poetry, and that their faults should be reprimanded by this
standard
rather than coddled by antiquarian affection ? They have
been enough
praised in terms which are implicit limitations because they
are 'metaphysical' or 'witty', 'quaint' or 'obscure',
though at their
best they have not these attributes more than other serious
poets. On
the other hand we must not reject the criticism of Johnson
(a
dangerous person to disagree with) without having mastered
it,
without having assimilated the Johnsonian canons of taste.
In reading
the celebrated passage in his essay on Cowley we must
remember that
by wit he clearly means something more serious than we
usually mean
today; in his criticism of their versification we must
remember in
what a narrow discipline he was trained, but also how well
trained;
we must remember that Johnson tortures chiefly the chief
offenders,
Cowley and Cleveland. It would be a fruitful work, and one
requiring
a substantial book, to break up the classification of
Johnson (for
there has been none since) and exhibit these poets in all
their
difference of kind and of degree, from the massive music of
Donne to
the faint, pleasing tinkle of Aurelian Townshend -
whose "Dialogue
between a Pilgrim and Time" is one of the few regrettable
omissions
from the excellent anthology of Professor Grierson.
The term "Metaphysical Poet" was first coined by the critic
Samuel
Johnson (1709-1784) and he used it as a disparaging term.
Earlier,
John Dryden had also been critical of the group of poets he
grouped
together as too proud of their wit. Johnson and Dryden
valued the
clarity, restraint and shapeliness of the poets of Augustan
Rome
(which is why some 18th century poets are
called "Augustan," and
therefore were antagonistic towards poets of the mid-17th
century.
The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18th
and 19th
centuries (obviously, the Romantic poets found little in
this heavily
intellectualized poetry). At the end of the 19th century
and in the
beginning of the 20th century, interest in this group
picked up, and
especially important was T.S. Eliot's famous essay "The
Metaphysical
Poets" (1921). Interest peaked this century with the New
Critics
school around mid-century, and now is tempering off a bit,
though
Donne, the original "Big Name" is being superceded now by
interest
in George Herbert, who's religious seeking and questioning
seems to
be hitting a critical nerve
Another worthy reposting, from the archives.
Hieronymous707
2016-03-13 16:26:21 UTC
Reply
Permalink
What's your lucky number?
Will Dockery
2016-03-13 16:29:47 UTC
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Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
What's your lucky number?
It might be seven... I was born on May 7, my name is:

William Abraham Dockery

But I'm not sure if I know exactly how to find a "Lucky Number"?

:)
Hieronymous707
2016-03-13 16:34:08 UTC
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Permalink
Okay. Makes sense. Thanks.
I was just thinking about changing
my lucky number from 17 to 23,
and wondered what yours was.
Will Dockery
2016-03-13 16:38:51 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
Okay. Makes sense. Thanks.
I was just thinking about changing
my lucky number from 17 to 23,
and wondered what yours was.
My lucky number could be 777, I think... my grandmother might know, if she were still with us, she was the "namer" back in those days.

Maybe some combination of 5 and 7.

:)
Hieronymous707
2016-03-13 16:51:23 UTC
Reply
Permalink
That's too many combinations for me.
I usually just pick a number and stick
with it until I feel like a change, which
is the reason I mentioned it in context
of your interest in metaphysical poetry.
Will Dockery
2016-03-16 14:53:41 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
That's too many combinations for me.
I usually just pick a number and stick
with it until I feel like a change, which
is the reason I mentioned it in context
of your interest in metaphysical poetry.
I think this discussion was about "Lucky Numbers", which I don't pay much
attention to, if at all.
Hieronymous707
2016-03-16 19:14:29 UTC
Reply
Permalink
The discussion is about what you're paying attention to,
whether that's lucky numbers, metaphysics or whatever.
Will Dockery
2016-03-19 07:05:15 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
The discussion is about what you're paying attention to,
whether that's lucky numbers, metaphysics or whatever.
Oh, okay, I see what you mean, now.

:)
Hieronymous707
2016-03-19 11:20:10 UTC
Reply
Permalink
A Metaphysical Poem

Picture this. Maybe. Perhaps.
If reading results in a time lapse,
then when you hear rhythmic word taps
you bridge your gaps twixt each synapse.

That's how we're hardwired, inherently.
Reading words rhymed can apparently
cause us minute mind explosions
as said rhymes reveal the notions
that we base our future acts on
using our dendrites and axons.

It's just simple super-symmetry, high energy related
in a way that one could say's been telemetrically translated.
As you see, prose poetry when read by heads becomes a thing
whereby the why before what lies in store presents events in strings.

Now, since that sounds confusing, we'll be using this example
to show how it's done, how rhymes can run. Pardon the pun-ish sample.

I'm both poetic genius
and prosaically savant.
In terms of what transpires between us,
most consider me piquant.

That's a self-made observation from someone whose self says Hi,
and simply shows a how relationship without explaining why,
because, as Hi, to say why so relates might sound a bit old-fashioned.
Not unlike the why restated as The Fly wrote Ogden Nash on.
Will Dockery
2016-03-19 14:04:20 UTC
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Permalink
One of my favorite old school Metaphysical poets, Andrew Marvell... when I
first heard this poem being read at a poetry reading back in the 1980s, the
poet reading it, Sean Bernard, made it sound like Jim Morrison.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2008/nov/17/to-his-coy-mistress-andrew-marvell

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day.

Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.

My vegetable love would grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vaults, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.

Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball,
And tear our pleasure with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

-Andrew Marvell
Hieronymous707
2016-03-19 14:12:18 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Okay, so read A Metaphysical Poem in front of a camera,
upload it to YouTube, and post a link. Make it sound like
you wrote it, and everyone who sees it will believe you.
Will Dockery
2016-03-19 14:31:57 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
No one said anything about taking credit.
Just read it like you own it, like singing a
cover song, or performing a role on stage.
Okay, I get what you mean, now.
Hieronymous707
2016-03-19 14:57:34 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Well it's about fucking time
you got what I mean, finally,
don't you think, moron? LOL.
Will Dockery
2016-03-19 17:44:54 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
Well it's about fucking time
you got what I mean, finally,
don't you think, moron? LOL.
Nice Trump emulation you have going there, Corey.

And good afternoon, my friend.

"Here we are in the only place you'd allow. There you go, you're forcing my
hand on this burning bridge now."

Check out "Shark Pact Manifesto" by Will Dockery & Rusty Wood.

http://www.reverbnation.com/open_graph/video/14129081

Only rock-n-roll... but you know the rest.

:D
Will Dockery
2018-07-27 15:07:49 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
Well it's about fucking time
you got what I mean, finally,
don't you think, moron? LOL.
Well... isn't that special?

:)
Will Dockery
2019-01-10 02:40:21 UTC
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Permalink
A favorite discussion topic.
Will Dockery
2019-04-15 22:29:13 UTC
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Permalink
Speaking of reality, a sad day as the home of Quasimodo and Esmerelda burns
to the ground.
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-15 22:42:59 UTC
Reply
Permalink
'Speaking of reality', LOL.
Will Dockery
2019-04-15 22:50:24 UTC
Reply
Permalink
In the back of a Victor Hugo novel.

:)
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-15 23:02:47 UTC
Reply
Permalink
In the back? Really? LOL
General Zod
2019-03-21 05:14:45 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Will Dockery
Post by Hieronymous707
That's too many combinations for me.
I usually just pick a number and stick
with it until I feel like a change, which
is the reason I mentioned it in context
of your interest in metaphysical poetry.
I think this discussion was about "Lucky Numbers", which I don't pay much
attention to, if at all.
I threw my luck arrowhead in the river after all that LUCK it brought me....
General Zod
2019-04-14 02:39:13 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Will Dockery
Post by Hieronymous707
That's too many combinations for me.
I usually just pick a number and stick
with it until I feel like a change, which
is the reason I mentioned it in context
of your interest in metaphysical poetry.
I think this discussion was about "Lucky Numbers", which I don't pay much
attention to, if at all.
There should always be time for the things you love....
Will Dockery
2016-03-19 12:50:23 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
Thanks. I wrote it years ago.
I would not mind reading this one live for you at all.

If and when time permits... of course. Stage time and timing are hard to
plan.

Interested?
Hieronymous707
2016-03-19 13:53:03 UTC
Reply
Permalink
I'm always interested in having people
read my poetry whenever they have time.
Will Dockery
2016-03-19 14:20:33 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
Okay, so read A Metaphysical Poem in front of a camera,
upload it to YouTube, and post a link. Make it sound like
you wrote it, and everyone who sees it will believe you.
This is somewhat possible.

I'll actually be in front of a camera Sunday night, shooting a few scenes
for the long-awaited Epic Sci-Fi movie by Brian Mallard, and if I have a
print-out by then, I could get him to film me reading it.

I have no interest in taking credit for another man's poem, though.
Hieronymous707
2016-03-19 14:27:36 UTC
Reply
Permalink
No one said anything about taking credit.
Just read it like you own it, like singing a
cover song, or performing a role on stage.
Will Dockery
2016-03-19 11:52:05 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
A Metaphysical Poem
Picture this. Maybe. Perhaps.
If reading results in a time lapse,
then when you hear rhythmic word taps
you bridge your gaps twixt each synapse.
That's how we're hardwired, inherently.
Reading words rhymed can apparently
cause us minute mind explosions
as said rhymes reveal the notions
that we base our future acts on
using our dendrites and axons.
It's just simple super-symmetry, high energy related
in a way that one could say's been telemetrically translated.
As you see, prose poetry when read by heads becomes a thing
whereby the why before what lies in store presents events in strings.
Now, since that sounds confusing, we'll be using this example
to show how it's done, how rhymes can run. Pardon the pun-ish sample.
I'm both poetic genius
and prosaically savant.
In terms of what transpires between us,
most consider me piquant.
That's a self-made observation from someone whose self says Hi,
and simply shows a how relationship without explaining why,
because, as Hi, to say why so relates might sound a bit old-fashioned.
Not unlike the why restated as The Fly wrote Ogden Nash on.
This one's really good, from m first scan of it.
Hieronymous707
2016-03-19 12:03:37 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Thanks. I wrote it years ago.
Will Dockery
2016-03-19 13:59:45 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Hieronymous707
I'm always interested in having people
read my poetry whenever they have time.
I'll do a quick search for my reading of "Haunted Room" now... by the way, I
actually tried it twice but I'm not sure if both got filmed.

One had backing music from the band, a kind of nice Jack Snipe riff inspired
me to try it the second time.
Will Dockery
2016-03-21 21:36:16 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Some modern metaphysics:

http://starling.rinet.ru/music/genesis.htm

Revisiting the music and poetics of Peter Gabriel, both solo and with #Genesis.
General Zod
2019-01-27 05:59:02 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Will Dockery
http://starling.rinet.ru/music/genesis.htm
Revisiting the music and poetics of Peter Gabriel, both solo and with #Genesis.
Hell to the Yes.....
Will Dockery
2019-01-28 02:16:23 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Will Dockery
http://starling.rinet.ru/music/genesis.htm
Revisiting the music and poetics of Peter Gabriel, both solo and with #Genesis.
Hell to the Yes.....
Now Peter Gabriel is an odd case, hasn't produced any new material in
decades now, it seems.
Zod
2019-01-29 06:45:31 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Will Dockery
Post by Will Dockery
http://starling.rinet.ru/music/genesis.htm
Revisiting the music and poetics of Peter Gabriel, both solo and with #Genesis.
Hell to the Yes.....
Now Peter Gabriel is an odd case, hasn't produced any new material in
decades now, it seems.
He did that great New Blood remake album though....
Bean Counter
2018-07-31 07:04:26 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by a***@coolgroups.com
"The Metaphysical Poets"
First published in the Times Literary Supplement, 20
October 1921.
By collecting these poems from the work of a generation
more often
named than read, and more often read than profitably
studied,
Professor Grierson has rendered a service of some
importance.
Certainly the reader will meet with many poems already
preserved in
other anthologies, at the same time that he discovers poems
such as
those of Aurelian Townshend or Lord Herbert of Cherbury here
included. But the function of such an anthology as this is
neither
that of Professor Saintsbury's admirable edition of
Caroline poets
nor that of the Oxford Book of English Verse. Mr.
Grierson's book is
in itself a piece of criticism, and a provocation of
criticism; and
we think that he was right in including so many poems of
Donne,
elsewhere (though not in many editions) accessible, as
documents in
the case of 'metaphysical poetry'. The phrase has long done
duty as a
term of abuse, or as the label of a quaint and pleasant
taste. The
question is to what extent the so-called metaphysicals
formed a
school (in our own time we should say a 'movement'), and
how far this
so-called school or movement is a digression from the main
current.Not only is it extremely difficult to define
metaphysical
poetry, but difficult to decide what poets practice it and
in which
of their verses. The poetry of Donne (to whom Marvell and
Bishop King
are sometimes nearer than any of the other authors) is late
Elizabethan, its feeling often very close to that of
Chapman.
The 'courtly' poetry is derivative from Jonson, who borrowed
liberally from the Latin; it expires in the next century
with the
sentiment and witticism of Prior. There is finally the
devotional
verse of Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw (echoed long after by
Christina Rossetti and Francis Thompson); Crashaw,
sometimes more
profound and less sectarian than the others, has a quality
which
returns through the Elizabethan period to the early
Italians. It is
difficult to find any precise use of metaphor, simile, or
other
conceit, which is common to all the poets and at the same
time
important enough as an element of style to isolate these
poets as a
group. Donne, and often Cowley, employ a device which is
sometimes
considered characteristically 'metaphysical'; the
elaboration
(contrasted with the condensation) of a figure of speech to
the
furthest stage to which ingenuity can carry it. Thus Cowley
develops
the commonplace comparison of the world to a chess-board
through long
stanzas ("To Destiny"), and Donne, with more grace, in "A
Valediction," the comparison of two lovers to a pair of
compasses.
But elsewhere we find, instead of the mere explication of
the content
of a comparison, a development by rapid association of
thought which
requires considerable agility on the part of the reader.
On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All,
So cloth each teare,
Which thee cloth weare,
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved
so.
Here we find at least two connections which are not
implicit in the
first figure, but are forced upon it by the poet: from the
geographer's globe to the tear, and the tear to the deluge.
On the
other hand, some of Donne's most successful and
characteristic
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
where the most powerful effect is produced by the sudden
contrast of
associations of 'bright hair' and of 'bore'. This
telescoping of
images and multiplied associations is characteristic of the
phrase of
some of the dramatists of the period which Donne knew: not
to mention
Shakespeare, it is frequent in Middleton, Webster, and
Tourneur, and
is one of the sources of the vitality of their
language.Johnson, who
employed the term 'metaphysical poets', apparently having
Donne,
Cleveland, and Cowley chiefly in mind, remarks of them
that 'the most
heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'. The
force of
this impeachment lies in the failure of the conjunction,
the fact
that often the ideas are yoked but not united; and if we
are to judge
of styles of poetry by their abuse, enough examples may be
found in
Cleveland to justify Johnson's condemnation. But a degree of
heterogeneity of material compelled into unity by the
operation of
the poet's mind is omnipresent in poetry. We need not
select for
Notre ame est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie;
we may find it in some of the best lines of Johnson himself
("The
His fate was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
where the effect is due to a contrast of ideas, different
in degree
but the same in principle, as that which Johnson mildly
reprehended.
And in one of the finest poems of the age (a poem which
could not
have been written in any other age), the "Exequy" of Bishop
King, the
extended comparison is used with perfect success: the idea
and the
simile become one, in the passage in which the Bishop
illustrates his
impatience to see his dead wife, under the figure of a
Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way, And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And ev'ry houre a step towards thee.
At night when I retake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my West
Of life, almost by eight houres sail,
Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale....
But heark! My Pulse, like a soft Drum
Beats my approach, tells Thee I come;
And slow howere my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by Thee
.
(In the last few lines there is that effect of terror which
is
several times attained by one of Bishop King's admirers,
Edgar Poe.)
Again, we may justly take these quatrains from Lord
Herbert's Ode,
stanzas which would, we think, be immediately pronounced to
be of the
So when from hence we shall he gone,
And he no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall he both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes, which did that beauty crown,
Were like two starrs, that having faln down,
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.
There is nothing in these lines (with the possible
exception of the
stars, a simile not at once grasped, but lovely and
justified) which
fits Johnson's general observations on the metaphysical
poets in his
essay on Cowley. A good deal resides in the richness of
association
which is at the same time borrowed from and given to the
word 'becalmed'; but the meaning is clear, the language
simple and
elegant. It is to be observed that the language of these
poets is as
a rule simple and pure; in the verse of George Herbert this
simplicity is carried as far as it can go - a simplicity
emulated
without success by numerous modern poets. The structure of
the
sentences, on the other hand, is sometimes far from simple,
but this
is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling. The
effect,
at its best, is far less artificial than that of an ode by
Gray. And
as this fidelity induces variety of thought and feeling, so
it
induces variety of music. We doubt whether, in the
eighteenth
century, could be found two poems in nominally the same
metre, so
dissimilar as Marvell's "Coy Mistress" and Crashaw's "Saint
Teresa";
the one producing an effect of great speed by the use of
short
syllables, and the other an ecclesiastical solemnity by the
use of
Love thou art absolute sole lord
Of life and death.
If so shrewd and sensitive (though so limited) a critic as
Johnson
failed to define metaphysical poetry by its faults, it is
worth while
to inquire whether we may not have more success by adopting
the
opposite method: by assuming that the poets of the
seventeenth
century (up to the Revolution) were the direct and normal
development
of the precedent age; and, without prejudicing their case
by the
adjective 'metaphysical', consider whether their virtue was
not
something permanently valuable, which subsequently
disappeared, but
ought not to have disappeared. Johnson has hit, perhaps by
accident,
on one of their peculiarities, when he observed that 'their
attempts
were always analytic'; he would not agree that, after the
dissociation, they put the material together again in a new
unity.It
is certain that the dramatic verse of the later Elizabethan
and early
Jacobean poets expresses a degree of development of
sensibility which
is not found in any of the prose, good as it often is. If
we except
Marlowe, a man of prodigious intelligence, these dramatists
were
directly or indirectly (it is at least a tenable theory)
affected by
Montaigne Even if we except also Jonson and Chapman, these
two were
notably erudite, and were notably men who incorporated their
erudition into their sensibility: their mode of feeling was
directly
and freshly altered by their reading and thought. In Chapman
especially there is a direct sensuous apprehension of
thought, or a
recreation of thought into feeling, which is exactly what
we find in
in this one thing, all the discipline
Of manners and of manhood is contained
A man to join himself with th' Universe
In his main sway, and make in all things fit
One with that All, and go on, round as it
Not plucking from the whole his wretched part
And into straits, or into nought revert,
Wishing the complete Universe might be
Subject to such a rag of it as he;
But to consider great Necessity.
No, when the fight begins within himself
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet - both tug -
He's left, himself i' the middle; the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
It is perhaps somewhat less fair, though very tempting as
both poets
are concerned with the perpetuation of love by offspring,
to compare
with the stanzas already quoted from Lord Herbert's Ode the
following
One walked between wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good
Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.
The difference is not a simple difference of degree between
poets. It
is something which had happened to the mind of England
between the
time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of
Tennyson
and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual
poet and
the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and
they think;
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the
odour of a
rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his
sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for
its work,
it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the
ordinary
man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The
latter falls
in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have
nothing to
do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or
the smell
of cooking; m the mind of the poet these experiences are
always
forming new wholes.We may express the difference by the
following
theory: The poets of the seventeenth century, the
successors of the
dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of
sensibility
which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple,
artificial, difficult, or fantastic, as their predecessors
were; no
less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or
Cino. In
the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from
which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is
natural,
was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful
poets of the
century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed
certain
poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude
of the
effect concealed the absence of others. The language went
on and in
some respects improved; the best verse of Collins, Gray,
Johnson, and
even Goldsmith satisfies some of our fastidious demands
better than
that of Donne or Marvell or King. But while the language
became more
refined, the feeling became more crude. The feeling, the
sensibility,
expressed in the "Country Churchyard" (to say nothing of
Tennyson and
Browning) is cruder than that in the"Coy Mistress."The
second effect
of the influence of Milton and Dryden followed from the
first, and
was therefore slow in manifestation. The sentimental age
began early
in the eighteenth century, and continued. The poets
revolted against
the ratiocinative, the descriptive; they thought and felt
by fits,
unbalanced; they reflected. In one or two passages of
Shelley's "Triumph of Life," in the second "Hyperion" there
are
traces of a struggle toward unification of sensibility. But
Keats and
Shelley died, and Tennyson and Browning ruminated.After
this brief
exposition of a theory - too brief, perhaps, to carry
conviction - we
may ask, what would have been the fate of
the 'metaphysical' had the
current of poetry descended in a direct line from them, as
it
descended in a direct line to them ? They would not,
certainly, be
classified as metaphysical. The possible interests of a
poet are
unlimited; the more intelligent he is the better; the more
intelligent he is the more likely that he will have
interests: our
only condition is that he turn them into poetry, and not
merely
meditate on them poetically. A philosophical theory which
has entered
into poetry is established, for its truth or falsity in one
sense
ceases to matter, and its truth in another sense is proved.
The poets
in question have, like other poets, various faults. But
they were, at
best, engaged in the task of trying to find the verbal
equivalent for
states of mind and feeling. And this means both that they
are more
mature, and that they wear better, than later poets of
certainly not
less literary ability.It is not a permanent necessity that
poets
should be interested in philosophy, or in any other
subject. We can
only say that it appears likely that poets in our
civilization, as it
exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization
comprehends
great variety and complexity, and this variety and
complexity,
playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various
and complex
results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive,
more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if
necessary, language into his meaning. (A brilliant and
extreme
statement of this view, with which it is not requisite to
associate
oneself, is that of M. Jean Epstein, "La Poesie d'aujourd-
hui.")
Hence we get something which looks very much like the
conceit - we
get, in fact, a method curiously similar to that of
the 'metaphysical
poets', similar also in its use of obscure words and of
simple
phrasing.
O geraniums diaphanes, guerroyeurs sortileges,
Sacrileges monomanes!
Emballages, devergondages, douches! O pressoirs
Des vendanges des grands soirs!
Layettes aux abois,
Thyrses au fond des bois!
Transfusions, represailles,
Relevailles, compresses et l'eternal potion,
Angelus! n'en pouvoir plus
De de'bacles nuptiales! de debacles nuptiales!
Wile est bien loin, elle pleure,
Le grand vent se lamente aussi . .
Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems,
are nearer
to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. But
poets more
classical than they have the same essential quality of
transmuting
ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into
a state of
mind.
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est egal a son vaste appetit.
Ah, que le monde est grand a la clarte des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
In French literature the great master of the seventeenth
century
Racine - and the great master of the nineteenth -
Baudelaire - are in
some ways more like each other than they are like anyone
else. The
greatest two masters of diction are also the greatest two
psychologists, the most curious explorers of the soul. It is
interesting to speculate whether it is not a misfortune
that two of
the greatest masters of diction in our language, Milton and
Dryden,
triumph with a dazzling disregard of the soul. If we
continued to
produce Miltons and Drydens it might not so much matter,
but as
things are it is a pity that English poetry has remained so
incomplete. Those who object to the 'artificiality' of
Milton or
Dryden sometimes tell us to 'look into our hearts and
write'. But
that is not looking deep enough; Racine or Donne looked
into a good
deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral
cortex, the
nervous system, and the digestive tracts.May we not
conclude, then,
that Donne, Crashaw, Vaughan, Herbert and Lord Herbert,
Marvell,
King, Cowley at his best, are in the direct current of
English
poetry, and that their faults should be reprimanded by this
standard
rather than coddled by antiquarian affection ? They have
been enough
praised in terms which are implicit limitations because they
are 'metaphysical' or 'witty', 'quaint' or 'obscure',
though at their
best they have not these attributes more than other serious
poets. On
the other hand we must not reject the criticism of Johnson
(a
dangerous person to disagree with) without having mastered
it,
without having assimilated the Johnsonian canons of taste.
In reading
the celebrated passage in his essay on Cowley we must
remember that
by wit he clearly means something more serious than we
usually mean
today; in his criticism of their versification we must
remember in
what a narrow discipline he was trained, but also how well
trained;
we must remember that Johnson tortures chiefly the chief
offenders,
Cowley and Cleveland. It would be a fruitful work, and one
requiring
a substantial book, to break up the classification of
Johnson (for
there has been none since) and exhibit these poets in all
their
difference of kind and of degree, from the massive music of
Donne to
the faint, pleasing tinkle of Aurelian Townshend -
whose "Dialogue
between a Pilgrim and Time" is one of the few regrettable
omissions
from the excellent anthology of Professor Grierson.
The term "Metaphysical Poet" was first coined by the critic
Samuel
Johnson (1709-1784) and he used it as a disparaging term.
Earlier,
John Dryden had also been critical of the group of poets he
grouped
together as too proud of their wit. Johnson and Dryden
valued the
clarity, restraint and shapeliness of the poets of Augustan
Rome
(which is why some 18th century poets are
called "Augustan," and
therefore were antagonistic towards poets of the mid-17th
century.
The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18th
and 19th
centuries (obviously, the Romantic poets found little in
this heavily
intellectualized poetry). At the end of the 19th century
and in the
beginning of the 20th century, interest in this group
picked up, and
especially important was T.S. Eliot's famous essay "The
Metaphysical
Poets" (1921). Interest peaked this century with the New
Critics
school around mid-century, and now is tempering off a bit,
though
Donne, the original "Big Name" is being superceded now by
interest
in George Herbert, who's religious seeking and questioning
seems to
be hitting a critical nerve
These old school poets knew where it was happeniung at they are finest....
Will Dockery
2018-08-01 09:45:57 UTC
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"The Metaphysical Poets"
First published in the Times Literary Supplement, 20
October 1921.
By collecting these poems from the work of a generation
more often
named than read, and more often read than profitably
studied,
Professor Grierson has rendered a service of some
importance.
Certainly the reader will meet with many poems already
preserved in
other anthologies, at the same time that he discovers poems
such as
those of Aurelian Townshend or Lord Herbert of Cherbury here
included. But the function of such an anthology as this is
neither
that of Professor Saintsbury's admirable edition of
Caroline poets
nor that of the Oxford Book of English Verse. Mr.
Grierson's book is
in itself a piece of criticism, and a provocation of
criticism; and
we think that he was right in including so many poems of
Donne,
elsewhere (though not in many editions) accessible, as
documents in
the case of 'metaphysical poetry'. The phrase has long done
duty as a
term of abuse, or as the label of a quaint and pleasant
taste. The
question is to what extent the so-called metaphysicals
formed a
school (in our own time we should say a 'movement'), and
how far this
so-called school or movement is a digression from the main
current.Not only is it extremely difficult to define
metaphysical
poetry, but difficult to decide what poets practice it and
in which
of their verses. The poetry of Donne (to whom Marvell and
Bishop King
are sometimes nearer than any of the other authors) is late
Elizabethan, its feeling often very close to that of
Chapman.
The 'courtly' poetry is derivative from Jonson, who borrowed
liberally from the Latin; it expires in the next century
with the
sentiment and witticism of Prior. There is finally the
devotional
verse of Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw (echoed long after by
Christina Rossetti and Francis Thompson); Crashaw,
sometimes more
profound and less sectarian than the others, has a quality
which
returns through the Elizabethan period to the early
Italians. It is
difficult to find any precise use of metaphor, simile, or
other
conceit, which is common to all the poets and at the same
time
important enough as an element of style to isolate these
poets as a
group. Donne, and often Cowley, employ a device which is
sometimes
considered characteristically 'metaphysical'; the
elaboration
(contrasted with the condensation) of a figure of speech to
the
furthest stage to which ingenuity can carry it. Thus Cowley
develops
the commonplace comparison of the world to a chess-board
through long
stanzas ("To Destiny"), and Donne, with more grace, in "A
Valediction," the comparison of two lovers to a pair of
compasses.
But elsewhere we find, instead of the mere explication of
the content
of a comparison, a development by rapid association of
thought which
requires considerable agility on the part of the reader.
On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All,
So cloth each teare,
Which thee cloth weare,
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved
so.
Here we find at least two connections which are not
implicit in the
first figure, but are forced upon it by the poet: from the
geographer's globe to the tear, and the tear to the deluge.
On the
other hand, some of Donne's most successful and
characteristic
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
where the most powerful effect is produced by the sudden
contrast of
associations of 'bright hair' and of 'bore'. This
telescoping of
images and multiplied associations is characteristic of the
phrase of
some of the dramatists of the period which Donne knew: not
to mention
Shakespeare, it is frequent in Middleton, Webster, and
Tourneur, and
is one of the sources of the vitality of their
language.Johnson, who
employed the term 'metaphysical poets', apparently having
Donne,
Cleveland, and Cowley chiefly in mind, remarks of them
that 'the most
heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'. The
force of
this impeachment lies in the failure of the conjunction,
the fact
that often the ideas are yoked but not united; and if we
are to judge
of styles of poetry by their abuse, enough examples may be
found in
Cleveland to justify Johnson's condemnation. But a degree of
heterogeneity of material compelled into unity by the
operation of
the poet's mind is omnipresent in poetry. We need not
select for
Notre ame est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie;
we may find it in some of the best lines of Johnson himself
("The
His fate was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
where the effect is due to a contrast of ideas, different
in degree
but the same in principle, as that which Johnson mildly
reprehended.
And in one of the finest poems of the age (a poem which
could not
have been written in any other age), the "Exequy" of Bishop
King, the
extended comparison is used with perfect success: the idea
and the
simile become one, in the passage in which the Bishop
illustrates his
impatience to see his dead wife, under the figure of a
Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way, And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And ev'ry houre a step towards thee.
At night when I retake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my West
Of life, almost by eight houres sail,
Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale....
But heark! My Pulse, like a soft Drum
Beats my approach, tells Thee I come;
And slow howere my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by Thee
.
(In the last few lines there is that effect of terror which
is
several times attained by one of Bishop King's admirers,
Edgar Poe.)
Again, we may justly take these quatrains from Lord
Herbert's Ode,
stanzas which would, we think, be immediately pronounced to
be of the
So when from hence we shall he gone,
And he no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall he both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes, which did that beauty crown,
Were like two starrs, that having faln down,
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.
There is nothing in these lines (with the possible
exception of the
stars, a simile not at once grasped, but lovely and
justified) which
fits Johnson's general observations on the metaphysical
poets in his
essay on Cowley. A good deal resides in the richness of
association
which is at the same time borrowed from and given to the
word 'becalmed'; but the meaning is clear, the language
simple and
elegant. It is to be observed that the language of these
poets is as
a rule simple and pure; in the verse of George Herbert this
simplicity is carried as far as it can go - a simplicity
emulated
without success by numerous modern poets. The structure of
the
sentences, on the other hand, is sometimes far from simple,
but this
is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling. The
effect,
at its best, is far less artificial than that of an ode by
Gray. And
as this fidelity induces variety of thought and feeling, so
it
induces variety of music. We doubt whether, in the
eighteenth
century, could be found two poems in nominally the same
metre, so
dissimilar as Marvell's "Coy Mistress" and Crashaw's "Saint
Teresa";
the one producing an effect of great speed by the use of
short
syllables, and the other an ecclesiastical solemnity by the
use of
Love thou art absolute sole lord
Of life and death.
If so shrewd and sensitive (though so limited) a critic as
Johnson
failed to define metaphysical poetry by its faults, it is
worth while
to inquire whether we may not have more success by adopting
the
opposite method: by assuming that the poets of the
seventeenth
century (up to the Revolution) were the direct and normal
development
of the precedent age; and, without prejudicing their case
by the
adjective 'metaphysical', consider whether their virtue was
not
something permanently valuable, which subsequently
disappeared, but
ought not to have disappeared. Johnson has hit, perhaps by
accident,
on one of their peculiarities, when he observed that 'their
attempts
were always analytic'; he would not agree that, after the
dissociation, they put the material together again in a new
unity.It
is certain that the dramatic verse of the later Elizabethan
and early
Jacobean poets expresses a degree of development of
sensibility which
is not found in any of the prose, good as it often is. If
we except
Marlowe, a man of prodigious intelligence, these dramatists
were
directly or indirectly (it is at least a tenable theory)
affected by
Montaigne Even if we except also Jonson and Chapman, these
two were
notably erudite, and were notably men who incorporated their
erudition into their sensibility: their mode of feeling was
directly
and freshly altered by their reading and thought. In Chapman
especially there is a direct sensuous apprehension of
thought, or a
recreation of thought into feeling, which is exactly what
we find in
in this one thing, all the discipline
Of manners and of manhood is contained
A man to join himself with th' Universe
In his main sway, and make in all things fit
One with that All, and go on, round as it
Not plucking from the whole his wretched part
And into straits, or into nought revert,
Wishing the complete Universe might be
Subject to such a rag of it as he;
But to consider great Necessity.
No, when the fight begins within himself
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet - both tug -
He's left, himself i' the middle; the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
It is perhaps somewhat less fair, though very tempting as
both poets
are concerned with the perpetuation of love by offspring,
to compare
with the stanzas already quoted from Lord Herbert's Ode the
following
One walked between wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good
Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.
The difference is not a simple difference of degree between
poets. It
is something which had happened to the mind of England
between the
time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of
Tennyson
and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual
poet and
the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and
they think;
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the
odour of a
rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his
sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for
its work,
it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the
ordinary
man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The
latter falls
in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have
nothing to
do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or
the smell
of cooking; m the mind of the poet these experiences are
always
forming new wholes.We may express the difference by the
following
theory: The poets of the seventeenth century, the
successors of the
dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of
sensibility
which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple,
artificial, difficult, or fantastic, as their predecessors
were; no
less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or
Cino. In
the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from
which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is
natural,
was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful
poets of the
century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed
certain
poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude
of the
effect concealed the absence of others. The language went
on and in
some respects improved; the best verse of Collins, Gray,
Johnson, and
even Goldsmith satisfies some of our fastidious demands
better than
that of Donne or Marvell or King. But while the language
became more
refined, the feeling became more crude. The feeling, the
sensibility,
expressed in the "Country Churchyard" (to say nothing of
Tennyson and
Browning) is cruder than that in the"Coy Mistress."The
second effect
of the influence of Milton and Dryden followed from the
first, and
was therefore slow in manifestation. The sentimental age
began early
in the eighteenth century, and continued. The poets
revolted against
the ratiocinative, the descriptive; they thought and felt
by fits,
unbalanced; they reflected. In one or two passages of
Shelley's "Triumph of Life," in the second "Hyperion" there
are
traces of a struggle toward unification of sensibility. But
Keats and
Shelley died, and Tennyson and Browning ruminated.After
this brief
exposition of a theory - too brief, perhaps, to carry
conviction - we
may ask, what would have been the fate of
the 'metaphysical' had the
current of poetry descended in a direct line from them, as
it
descended in a direct line to them ? They would not,
certainly, be
classified as metaphysical. The possible interests of a
poet are
unlimited; the more intelligent he is the better; the more
intelligent he is the more likely that he will have
interests: our
only condition is that he turn them into poetry, and not
merely
meditate on them poetically. A philosophical theory which
has entered
into poetry is established, for its truth or falsity in one
sense
ceases to matter, and its truth in another sense is proved.
The poets
in question have, like other poets, various faults. But
they were, at
best, engaged in the task of trying to find the verbal
equivalent for
states of mind and feeling. And this means both that they
are more
mature, and that they wear better, than later poets of
certainly not
less literary ability.It is not a permanent necessity that
poets
should be interested in philosophy, or in any other
subject. We can
only say that it appears likely that poets in our
civilization, as it
exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization
comprehends
great variety and complexity, and this variety and
complexity,
playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various
and complex
results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive,
more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if
necessary, language into his meaning. (A brilliant and
extreme
statement of this view, with which it is not requisite to
associate
oneself, is that of M. Jean Epstein, "La Poesie d'aujourd-
hui.")
Hence we get something which looks very much like the
conceit - we
get, in fact, a method curiously similar to that of
the 'metaphysical
poets', similar also in its use of obscure words and of
simple
phrasing.
O geraniums diaphanes, guerroyeurs sortileges,
Sacrileges monomanes!
Emballages, devergondages, douches! O pressoirs
Des vendanges des grands soirs!
Layettes aux abois,
Thyrses au fond des bois!
Transfusions, represailles,
Relevailles, compresses et l'eternal potion,
Angelus! n'en pouvoir plus
De de'bacles nuptiales! de debacles nuptiales!
Wile est bien loin, elle pleure,
Le grand vent se lamente aussi . .
Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems,
are nearer
to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. But
poets more
classical than they have the same essential quality of
transmuting
ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into
a state of
mind.
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est egal a son vaste appetit.
Ah, que le monde est grand a la clarte des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
In French literature the great master of the seventeenth
century
Racine - and the great master of the nineteenth -
Baudelaire - are in
some ways more like each other than they are like anyone
else. The
greatest two masters of diction are also the greatest two
psychologists, the most curious explorers of the soul. It is
interesting to speculate whether it is not a misfortune
that two of
the greatest masters of diction in our language, Milton and
Dryden,
triumph with a dazzling disregard of the soul. If we
continued to
produce Miltons and Drydens it might not so much matter,
but as
things are it is a pity that English poetry has remained so
incomplete. Those who object to the 'artificiality' of
Milton or
Dryden sometimes tell us to 'look into our hearts and
write'. But
that is not looking deep enough; Racine or Donne looked
into a good
deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral
cortex, the
nervous system, and the digestive tracts.May we not
conclude, then,
that Donne, Crashaw, Vaughan, Herbert and Lord Herbert,
Marvell,
King, Cowley at his best, are in the direct current of
English
poetry, and that their faults should be reprimanded by this
standard
rather than coddled by antiquarian affection ? They have
been enough
praised in terms which are implicit limitations because they
are 'metaphysical' or 'witty', 'quaint' or 'obscure',
though at their
best they have not these attributes more than other serious
poets. On
the other hand we must not reject the criticism of Johnson
(a
dangerous person to disagree with) without having mastered
it,
without having assimilated the Johnsonian canons of taste.
In reading
the celebrated passage in his essay on Cowley we must
remember that
by wit he clearly means something more serious than we
usually mean
today; in his criticism of their versification we must
remember in
what a narrow discipline he was trained, but also how well
trained;
we must remember that Johnson tortures chiefly the chief
offenders,
Cowley and Cleveland. It would be a fruitful work, and one
requiring
a substantial book, to break up the classification of
Johnson (for
there has been none since) and exhibit these poets in all
their
difference of kind and of degree, from the massive music of
Donne to
the faint, pleasing tinkle of Aurelian Townshend -
whose "Dialogue
between a Pilgrim and Time" is one of the few regrettable
omissions
from the excellent anthology of Professor Grierson.
The term "Metaphysical Poet" was first coined by the critic
Samuel
Johnson (1709-1784) and he used it as a disparaging term.
Earlier,
John Dryden had also been critical of the group of poets he
grouped
together as too proud of their wit. Johnson and Dryden
valued the
clarity, restraint and shapeliness of the poets of Augustan
Rome
(which is why some 18th century poets are
called "Augustan," and
therefore were antagonistic towards poets of the mid-17th
century.
The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18th
and 19th
centuries (obviously, the Romantic poets found little in
this heavily
intellectualized poetry). At the end of the 19th century
and in the
beginning of the 20th century, interest in this group
picked up, and
especially important was T.S. Eliot's famous essay "The
Metaphysical
Poets" (1921). Interest peaked this century with the New
Critics
school around mid-century, and now is tempering off a bit,
though
Donne, the original "Big Name" is being superceded now by
interest
in George Herbert, who's religious seeking and questioning
seems to
be hitting a critical nerve
These old school poets knew where it was happeniung at they are finest....
Do they have ontological authenticity?
Bean Counter
2018-08-06 04:30:30 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Will Dockery
Post by Bean Counter
Post by a***@coolgroups.com
"The Metaphysical Poets"
First published in the Times Literary Supplement, 20
October 1921.
By collecting these poems from the work of a generation
more often
named than read, and more often read than profitably
studied,
Professor Grierson has rendered a service of some
importance.
Certainly the reader will meet with many poems already
preserved in
other anthologies, at the same time that he discovers poems
such as
those of Aurelian Townshend or Lord Herbert of Cherbury here
included. But the function of such an anthology as this is
neither
that of Professor Saintsbury's admirable edition of
Caroline poets
nor that of the Oxford Book of English Verse. Mr.
Grierson's book is
in itself a piece of criticism, and a provocation of
criticism; and
we think that he was right in including so many poems of
Donne,
elsewhere (though not in many editions) accessible, as
documents in
the case of 'metaphysical poetry'. The phrase has long done
duty as a
term of abuse, or as the label of a quaint and pleasant
taste. The
question is to what extent the so-called metaphysicals
formed a
school (in our own time we should say a 'movement'), and
how far this
so-called school or movement is a digression from the main
current.Not only is it extremely difficult to define
metaphysical
poetry, but difficult to decide what poets practice it and
in which
of their verses. The poetry of Donne (to whom Marvell and
Bishop King
are sometimes nearer than any of the other authors) is late
Elizabethan, its feeling often very close to that of
Chapman.
The 'courtly' poetry is derivative from Jonson, who borrowed
liberally from the Latin; it expires in the next century
with the
sentiment and witticism of Prior. There is finally the
devotional
verse of Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw (echoed long after by
Christina Rossetti and Francis Thompson); Crashaw,
sometimes more
profound and less sectarian than the others, has a quality
which
returns through the Elizabethan period to the early
Italians. It is
difficult to find any precise use of metaphor, simile, or
other
conceit, which is common to all the poets and at the same
time
important enough as an element of style to isolate these
poets as a
group. Donne, and often Cowley, employ a device which is
sometimes
considered characteristically 'metaphysical'; the
elaboration
(contrasted with the condensation) of a figure of speech to
the
furthest stage to which ingenuity can carry it. Thus Cowley
develops
the commonplace comparison of the world to a chess-board
through long
stanzas ("To Destiny"), and Donne, with more grace, in "A
Valediction," the comparison of two lovers to a pair of
compasses.
But elsewhere we find, instead of the mere explication of
the content
of a comparison, a development by rapid association of
thought which
requires considerable agility on the part of the reader.
On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All,
So cloth each teare,
Which thee cloth weare,
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved
so.
Here we find at least two connections which are not
implicit in the
first figure, but are forced upon it by the poet: from the
geographer's globe to the tear, and the tear to the deluge.
On the
other hand, some of Donne's most successful and
characteristic
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
where the most powerful effect is produced by the sudden
contrast of
associations of 'bright hair' and of 'bore'. This
telescoping of
images and multiplied associations is characteristic of the
phrase of
some of the dramatists of the period which Donne knew: not
to mention
Shakespeare, it is frequent in Middleton, Webster, and
Tourneur, and
is one of the sources of the vitality of their
language.Johnson, who
employed the term 'metaphysical poets', apparently having
Donne,
Cleveland, and Cowley chiefly in mind, remarks of them
that 'the most
heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'. The
force of
this impeachment lies in the failure of the conjunction,
the fact
that often the ideas are yoked but not united; and if we
are to judge
of styles of poetry by their abuse, enough examples may be
found in
Cleveland to justify Johnson's condemnation. But a degree of
heterogeneity of material compelled into unity by the
operation of
the poet's mind is omnipresent in poetry. We need not
select for
Notre ame est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie;
we may find it in some of the best lines of Johnson himself
("The
His fate was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
where the effect is due to a contrast of ideas, different
in degree
but the same in principle, as that which Johnson mildly
reprehended.
And in one of the finest poems of the age (a poem which
could not
have been written in any other age), the "Exequy" of Bishop
King, the
extended comparison is used with perfect success: the idea
and the
simile become one, in the passage in which the Bishop
illustrates his
impatience to see his dead wife, under the figure of a
Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way, And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And ev'ry houre a step towards thee.
At night when I retake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my West
Of life, almost by eight houres sail,
Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale....
But heark! My Pulse, like a soft Drum
Beats my approach, tells Thee I come;
And slow howere my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by Thee
.
(In the last few lines there is that effect of terror which
is
several times attained by one of Bishop King's admirers,
Edgar Poe.)
Again, we may justly take these quatrains from Lord
Herbert's Ode,
stanzas which would, we think, be immediately pronounced to
be of the
So when from hence we shall he gone,
And he no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall he both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes, which did that beauty crown,
Were like two starrs, that having faln down,
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.
There is nothing in these lines (with the possible
exception of the
stars, a simile not at once grasped, but lovely and
justified) which
fits Johnson's general observations on the metaphysical
poets in his
essay on Cowley. A good deal resides in the richness of
association
which is at the same time borrowed from and given to the
word 'becalmed'; but the meaning is clear, the language
simple and
elegant. It is to be observed that the language of these
poets is as
a rule simple and pure; in the verse of George Herbert this
simplicity is carried as far as it can go - a simplicity
emulated
without success by numerous modern poets. The structure of
the
sentences, on the other hand, is sometimes far from simple,
but this
is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling. The
effect,
at its best, is far less artificial than that of an ode by
Gray. And
as this fidelity induces variety of thought and feeling, so
it
induces variety of music. We doubt whether, in the
eighteenth
century, could be found two poems in nominally the same
metre, so
dissimilar as Marvell's "Coy Mistress" and Crashaw's "Saint
Teresa";
the one producing an effect of great speed by the use of
short
syllables, and the other an ecclesiastical solemnity by the
use of
Love thou art absolute sole lord
Of life and death.
If so shrewd and sensitive (though so limited) a critic as
Johnson
failed to define metaphysical poetry by its faults, it is
worth while
to inquire whether we may not have more success by adopting
the
opposite method: by assuming that the poets of the
seventeenth
century (up to the Revolution) were the direct and normal
development
of the precedent age; and, without prejudicing their case
by the
adjective 'metaphysical', consider whether their virtue was
not
something permanently valuable, which subsequently
disappeared, but
ought not to have disappeared. Johnson has hit, perhaps by
accident,
on one of their peculiarities, when he observed that 'their
attempts
were always analytic'; he would not agree that, after the
dissociation, they put the material together again in a new
unity.It
is certain that the dramatic verse of the later Elizabethan
and early
Jacobean poets expresses a degree of development of
sensibility which
is not found in any of the prose, good as it often is. If
we except
Marlowe, a man of prodigious intelligence, these dramatists
were
directly or indirectly (it is at least a tenable theory)
affected by
Montaigne Even if we except also Jonson and Chapman, these
two were
notably erudite, and were notably men who incorporated their
erudition into their sensibility: their mode of feeling was
directly
and freshly altered by their reading and thought. In Chapman
especially there is a direct sensuous apprehension of
thought, or a
recreation of thought into feeling, which is exactly what
we find in
in this one thing, all the discipline
Of manners and of manhood is contained
A man to join himself with th' Universe
In his main sway, and make in all things fit
One with that All, and go on, round as it
Not plucking from the whole his wretched part
And into straits, or into nought revert,
Wishing the complete Universe might be
Subject to such a rag of it as he;
But to consider great Necessity.
No, when the fight begins within himself
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet - both tug -
He's left, himself i' the middle; the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
It is perhaps somewhat less fair, though very tempting as
both poets
are concerned with the perpetuation of love by offspring,
to compare
with the stanzas already quoted from Lord Herbert's Ode the
following
One walked between wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good
Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.
The difference is not a simple difference of degree between
poets. It
is something which had happened to the mind of England
between the
time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of
Tennyson
and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual
poet and
the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and
they think;
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the
odour of a
rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his
sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for
its work,
it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the
ordinary
man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The
latter falls
in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have
nothing to
do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or
the smell
of cooking; m the mind of the poet these experiences are
always
forming new wholes.We may express the difference by the
following
theory: The poets of the seventeenth century, the
successors of the
dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of
sensibility
which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple,
artificial, difficult, or fantastic, as their predecessors
were; no
less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or
Cino. In
the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from
which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is
natural,
was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful
poets of the
century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed
certain
poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude
of the
effect concealed the absence of others. The language went
on and in
some respects improved; the best verse of Collins, Gray,
Johnson, and
even Goldsmith satisfies some of our fastidious demands
better than
that of Donne or Marvell or King. But while the language
became more
refined, the feeling became more crude. The feeling, the
sensibility,
expressed in the "Country Churchyard" (to say nothing of
Tennyson and
Browning) is cruder than that in the"Coy Mistress."The
second effect
of the influence of Milton and Dryden followed from the
first, and
was therefore slow in manifestation. The sentimental age
began early
in the eighteenth century, and continued. The poets
revolted against
the ratiocinative, the descriptive; they thought and felt
by fits,
unbalanced; they reflected. In one or two passages of
Shelley's "Triumph of Life," in the second "Hyperion" there
are
traces of a struggle toward unification of sensibility. But
Keats and
Shelley died, and Tennyson and Browning ruminated.After
this brief
exposition of a theory - too brief, perhaps, to carry
conviction - we
may ask, what would have been the fate of
the 'metaphysical' had the
current of poetry descended in a direct line from them, as
it
descended in a direct line to them ? They would not,
certainly, be
classified as metaphysical. The possible interests of a
poet are
unlimited; the more intelligent he is the better; the more
intelligent he is the more likely that he will have
interests: our
only condition is that he turn them into poetry, and not
merely
meditate on them poetically. A philosophical theory which
has entered
into poetry is established, for its truth or falsity in one
sense
ceases to matter, and its truth in another sense is proved.
The poets
in question have, like other poets, various faults. But
they were, at
best, engaged in the task of trying to find the verbal
equivalent for
states of mind and feeling. And this means both that they
are more
mature, and that they wear better, than later poets of
certainly not
less literary ability.It is not a permanent necessity that
poets
should be interested in philosophy, or in any other
subject. We can
only say that it appears likely that poets in our
civilization, as it
exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization
comprehends
great variety and complexity, and this variety and
complexity,
playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various
and complex
results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive,
more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if
necessary, language into his meaning. (A brilliant and
extreme
statement of this view, with which it is not requisite to
associate
oneself, is that of M. Jean Epstein, "La Poesie d'aujourd-
hui.")
Hence we get something which looks very much like the
conceit - we
get, in fact, a method curiously similar to that of
the 'metaphysical
poets', similar also in its use of obscure words and of
simple
phrasing.
O geraniums diaphanes, guerroyeurs sortileges,
Sacrileges monomanes!
Emballages, devergondages, douches! O pressoirs
Des vendanges des grands soirs!
Layettes aux abois,
Thyrses au fond des bois!
Transfusions, represailles,
Relevailles, compresses et l'eternal potion,
Angelus! n'en pouvoir plus
De de'bacles nuptiales! de debacles nuptiales!
Wile est bien loin, elle pleure,
Le grand vent se lamente aussi . .
Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems,
are nearer
to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. But
poets more
classical than they have the same essential quality of
transmuting
ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into
a state of
mind.
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est egal a son vaste appetit.
Ah, que le monde est grand a la clarte des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
In French literature the great master of the seventeenth
century
Racine - and the great master of the nineteenth -
Baudelaire - are in
some ways more like each other than they are like anyone
else. The
greatest two masters of diction are also the greatest two
psychologists, the most curious explorers of the soul. It is
interesting to speculate whether it is not a misfortune
that two of
the greatest masters of diction in our language, Milton and
Dryden,
triumph with a dazzling disregard of the soul. If we
continued to
produce Miltons and Drydens it might not so much matter,
but as
things are it is a pity that English poetry has remained so
incomplete. Those who object to the 'artificiality' of
Milton or
Dryden sometimes tell us to 'look into our hearts and
write'. But
that is not looking deep enough; Racine or Donne looked
into a good
deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral
cortex, the
nervous system, and the digestive tracts.May we not
conclude, then,
that Donne, Crashaw, Vaughan, Herbert and Lord Herbert,
Marvell,
King, Cowley at his best, are in the direct current of
English
poetry, and that their faults should be reprimanded by this
standard
rather than coddled by antiquarian affection ? They have
been enough
praised in terms which are implicit limitations because they
are 'metaphysical' or 'witty', 'quaint' or 'obscure',
though at their
best they have not these attributes more than other serious
poets. On
the other hand we must not reject the criticism of Johnson
(a
dangerous person to disagree with) without having mastered
it,
without having assimilated the Johnsonian canons of taste.
In reading
the celebrated passage in his essay on Cowley we must
remember that
by wit he clearly means something more serious than we
usually mean
today; in his criticism of their versification we must
remember in
what a narrow discipline he was trained, but also how well
trained;
we must remember that Johnson tortures chiefly the chief
offenders,
Cowley and Cleveland. It would be a fruitful work, and one
requiring
a substantial book, to break up the classification of
Johnson (for
there has been none since) and exhibit these poets in all
their
difference of kind and of degree, from the massive music of
Donne to
the faint, pleasing tinkle of Aurelian Townshend -
whose "Dialogue
between a Pilgrim and Time" is one of the few regrettable
omissions
from the excellent anthology of Professor Grierson.
The term "Metaphysical Poet" was first coined by the critic
Samuel
Johnson (1709-1784) and he used it as a disparaging term.
Earlier,
John Dryden had also been critical of the group of poets he
grouped
together as too proud of their wit. Johnson and Dryden
valued the
clarity, restraint and shapeliness of the poets of Augustan
Rome
(which is why some 18th century poets are
called "Augustan," and
therefore were antagonistic towards poets of the mid-17th
century.
The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18th
and 19th
centuries (obviously, the Romantic poets found little in
this heavily
intellectualized poetry). At the end of the 19th century
and in the
beginning of the 20th century, interest in this group
picked up, and
especially important was T.S. Eliot's famous essay "The
Metaphysical
Poets" (1921). Interest peaked this century with the New
Critics
school around mid-century, and now is tempering off a bit,
though
Donne, the original "Big Name" is being superceded now by
interest
in George Herbert, who's religious seeking and questioning
seems to
be hitting a critical nerve
These old school poets knew where it was happeniung at they are finest....
Do they have ontological authenticity?
Say what????
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 22:11:10 UTC
Reply
Permalink
No, you're not always wrong, Corey... just this time you are.

:)
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 22:13:25 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Of course I'm never wrong when you agree with me; only when you don't.
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 22:50:56 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Exactly, Corey...

I agree with you when you are correct, and don't when you are wrong.

:)
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 23:15:00 UTC
Reply
Permalink
You mean you agree with me when you *think* I am
correct, and don't when you *think* I am wrong, don't you?
Zod
2019-01-11 00:48:15 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by a***@coolgroups.com
"The Metaphysical Poets"
First published in the Times Literary Supplement, 20
October 1921.
By collecting these poems from the work of a generation
more often
named than read, and more often read than profitably
studied,
Professor Grierson has rendered a service of some
importance.
Certainly the reader will meet with many poems already
preserved in
other anthologies, at the same time that he discovers poems
such as
those of Aurelian Townshend or Lord Herbert of Cherbury here
included. But the function of such an anthology as this is
neither
that of Professor Saintsbury's admirable edition of
Caroline poets
nor that of the Oxford Book of English Verse. Mr.
Grierson's book is
in itself a piece of criticism, and a provocation of
criticism; and
we think that he was right in including so many poems of
Donne,
elsewhere (though not in many editions) accessible, as
documents in
the case of 'metaphysical poetry'. The phrase has long done
duty as a
term of abuse, or as the label of a quaint and pleasant
taste. The
question is to what extent the so-called metaphysicals
formed a
school (in our own time we should say a 'movement'), and
how far this
so-called school or movement is a digression from the main
current.Not only is it extremely difficult to define
metaphysical
poetry, but difficult to decide what poets practice it and
in which
of their verses. The poetry of Donne (to whom Marvell and
Bishop King
are sometimes nearer than any of the other authors) is late
Elizabethan, its feeling often very close to that of
Chapman.
The 'courtly' poetry is derivative from Jonson, who borrowed
liberally from the Latin; it expires in the next century
with the
sentiment and witticism of Prior. There is finally the
devotional
verse of Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw (echoed long after by
Christina Rossetti and Francis Thompson); Crashaw,
sometimes more
profound and less sectarian than the others, has a quality
which
returns through the Elizabethan period to the early
Italians. It is
difficult to find any precise use of metaphor, simile, or
other
conceit, which is common to all the poets and at the same
time
important enough as an element of style to isolate these
poets as a
group. Donne, and often Cowley, employ a device which is
sometimes
considered characteristically 'metaphysical'; the
elaboration
(contrasted with the condensation) of a figure of speech to
the
furthest stage to which ingenuity can carry it. Thus Cowley
develops
the commonplace comparison of the world to a chess-board
through long
stanzas ("To Destiny"), and Donne, with more grace, in "A
Valediction," the comparison of two lovers to a pair of
compasses.
But elsewhere we find, instead of the mere explication of
the content
of a comparison, a development by rapid association of
thought which
requires considerable agility on the part of the reader.
On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All,
So cloth each teare,
Which thee cloth weare,
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved
so.
Here we find at least two connections which are not
implicit in the
first figure, but are forced upon it by the poet: from the
geographer's globe to the tear, and the tear to the deluge.
On the
other hand, some of Donne's most successful and
characteristic
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
where the most powerful effect is produced by the sudden
contrast of
associations of 'bright hair' and of 'bore'. This
telescoping of
images and multiplied associations is characteristic of the
phrase of
some of the dramatists of the period which Donne knew: not
to mention
Shakespeare, it is frequent in Middleton, Webster, and
Tourneur, and
is one of the sources of the vitality of their
language.Johnson, who
employed the term 'metaphysical poets', apparently having
Donne,
Cleveland, and Cowley chiefly in mind, remarks of them
that 'the most
heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'. The
force of
this impeachment lies in the failure of the conjunction,
the fact
that often the ideas are yoked but not united; and if we
are to judge
of styles of poetry by their abuse, enough examples may be
found in
Cleveland to justify Johnson's condemnation. But a degree of
heterogeneity of material compelled into unity by the
operation of
the poet's mind is omnipresent in poetry. We need not
select for
Notre ame est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie;
we may find it in some of the best lines of Johnson himself
("The
His fate was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
where the effect is due to a contrast of ideas, different
in degree
but the same in principle, as that which Johnson mildly
reprehended.
And in one of the finest poems of the age (a poem which
could not
have been written in any other age), the "Exequy" of Bishop
King, the
extended comparison is used with perfect success: the idea
and the
simile become one, in the passage in which the Bishop
illustrates his
impatience to see his dead wife, under the figure of a
Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way, And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And ev'ry houre a step towards thee.
At night when I retake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my West
Of life, almost by eight houres sail,
Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale....
But heark! My Pulse, like a soft Drum
Beats my approach, tells Thee I come;
And slow howere my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by Thee
.
(In the last few lines there is that effect of terror which
is
several times attained by one of Bishop King's admirers,
Edgar Poe.)
Again, we may justly take these quatrains from Lord
Herbert's Ode,
stanzas which would, we think, be immediately pronounced to
be of the
So when from hence we shall he gone,
And he no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall he both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes, which did that beauty crown,
Were like two starrs, that having faln down,
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.
There is nothing in these lines (with the possible
exception of the
stars, a simile not at once grasped, but lovely and
justified) which
fits Johnson's general observations on the metaphysical
poets in his
essay on Cowley. A good deal resides in the richness of
association
which is at the same time borrowed from and given to the
word 'becalmed'; but the meaning is clear, the language
simple and
elegant. It is to be observed that the language of these
poets is as
a rule simple and pure; in the verse of George Herbert this
simplicity is carried as far as it can go - a simplicity
emulated
without success by numerous modern poets. The structure of
the
sentences, on the other hand, is sometimes far from simple,
but this
is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling. The
effect,
at its best, is far less artificial than that of an ode by
Gray. And
as this fidelity induces variety of thought and feeling, so
it
induces variety of music. We doubt whether, in the
eighteenth
century, could be found two poems in nominally the same
metre, so
dissimilar as Marvell's "Coy Mistress" and Crashaw's "Saint
Teresa";
the one producing an effect of great speed by the use of
short
syllables, and the other an ecclesiastical solemnity by the
use of
Love thou art absolute sole lord
Of life and death.
If so shrewd and sensitive (though so limited) a critic as
Johnson
failed to define metaphysical poetry by its faults, it is
worth while
to inquire whether we may not have more success by adopting
the
opposite method: by assuming that the poets of the
seventeenth
century (up to the Revolution) were the direct and normal
development
of the precedent age; and, without prejudicing their case
by the
adjective 'metaphysical', consider whether their virtue was
not
something permanently valuable, which subsequently
disappeared, but
ought not to have disappeared. Johnson has hit, perhaps by
accident,
on one of their peculiarities, when he observed that 'their
attempts
were always analytic'; he would not agree that, after the
dissociation, they put the material together again in a new
unity.It
is certain that the dramatic verse of the later Elizabethan
and early
Jacobean poets expresses a degree of development of
sensibility which
is not found in any of the prose, good as it often is. If
we except
Marlowe, a man of prodigious intelligence, these dramatists
were
directly or indirectly (it is at least a tenable theory)
affected by
Montaigne Even if we except also Jonson and Chapman, these
two were
notably erudite, and were notably men who incorporated their
erudition into their sensibility: their mode of feeling was
directly
and freshly altered by their reading and thought. In Chapman
especially there is a direct sensuous apprehension of
thought, or a
recreation of thought into feeling, which is exactly what
we find in
in this one thing, all the discipline
Of manners and of manhood is contained
A man to join himself with th' Universe
In his main sway, and make in all things fit
One with that All, and go on, round as it
Not plucking from the whole his wretched part
And into straits, or into nought revert,
Wishing the complete Universe might be
Subject to such a rag of it as he;
But to consider great Necessity.
No, when the fight begins within himself
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet - both tug -
He's left, himself i' the middle; the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
It is perhaps somewhat less fair, though very tempting as
both poets
are concerned with the perpetuation of love by offspring,
to compare
with the stanzas already quoted from Lord Herbert's Ode the
following
One walked between wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good
Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.
The difference is not a simple difference of degree between
poets. It
is something which had happened to the mind of England
between the
time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of
Tennyson
and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual
poet and
the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and
they think;
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the
odour of a
rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his
sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for
its work,
it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the
ordinary
man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The
latter falls
in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have
nothing to
do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or
the smell
of cooking; m the mind of the poet these experiences are
always
forming new wholes.We may express the difference by the
following
theory: The poets of the seventeenth century, the
successors of the
dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of
sensibility
which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple,
artificial, difficult, or fantastic, as their predecessors
were; no
less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or
Cino. In
the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from
which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is
natural,
was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful
poets of the
century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed
certain
poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude
of the
effect concealed the absence of others. The language went
on and in
some respects improved; the best verse of Collins, Gray,
Johnson, and
even Goldsmith satisfies some of our fastidious demands
better than
that of Donne or Marvell or King. But while the language
became more
refined, the feeling became more crude. The feeling, the
sensibility,
expressed in the "Country Churchyard" (to say nothing of
Tennyson and
Browning) is cruder than that in the"Coy Mistress."The
second effect
of the influence of Milton and Dryden followed from the
first, and
was therefore slow in manifestation. The sentimental age
began early
in the eighteenth century, and continued. The poets
revolted against
the ratiocinative, the descriptive; they thought and felt
by fits,
unbalanced; they reflected. In one or two passages of
Shelley's "Triumph of Life," in the second "Hyperion" there
are
traces of a struggle toward unification of sensibility. But
Keats and
Shelley died, and Tennyson and Browning ruminated.After
this brief
exposition of a theory - too brief, perhaps, to carry
conviction - we
may ask, what would have been the fate of
the 'metaphysical' had the
current of poetry descended in a direct line from them, as
it
descended in a direct line to them ? They would not,
certainly, be
classified as metaphysical. The possible interests of a
poet are
unlimited; the more intelligent he is the better; the more
intelligent he is the more likely that he will have
interests: our
only condition is that he turn them into poetry, and not
merely
meditate on them poetically. A philosophical theory which
has entered
into poetry is established, for its truth or falsity in one
sense
ceases to matter, and its truth in another sense is proved.
The poets
in question have, like other poets, various faults. But
they were, at
best, engaged in the task of trying to find the verbal
equivalent for
states of mind and feeling. And this means both that they
are more
mature, and that they wear better, than later poets of
certainly not
less literary ability.It is not a permanent necessity that
poets
should be interested in philosophy, or in any other
subject. We can
only say that it appears likely that poets in our
civilization, as it
exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization
comprehends
great variety and complexity, and this variety and
complexity,
playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various
and complex
results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive,
more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if
necessary, language into his meaning. (A brilliant and
extreme
statement of this view, with which it is not requisite to
associate
oneself, is that of M. Jean Epstein, "La Poesie d'aujourd-
hui.")
Hence we get something which looks very much like the
conceit - we
get, in fact, a method curiously similar to that of
the 'metaphysical
poets', similar also in its use of obscure words and of
simple
phrasing.
O geraniums diaphanes, guerroyeurs sortileges,
Sacrileges monomanes!
Emballages, devergondages, douches! O pressoirs
Des vendanges des grands soirs!
Layettes aux abois,
Thyrses au fond des bois!
Transfusions, represailles,
Relevailles, compresses et l'eternal potion,
Angelus! n'en pouvoir plus
De de'bacles nuptiales! de debacles nuptiales!
Wile est bien loin, elle pleure,
Le grand vent se lamente aussi . .
Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems,
are nearer
to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. But
poets more
classical than they have the same essential quality of
transmuting
ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into
a state of
mind.
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est egal a son vaste appetit.
Ah, que le monde est grand a la clarte des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
In French literature the great master of the seventeenth
century
Racine - and the great master of the nineteenth -
Baudelaire - are in
some ways more like each other than they are like anyone
else. The
greatest two masters of diction are also the greatest two
psychologists, the most curious explorers of the soul. It is
interesting to speculate whether it is not a misfortune
that two of
the greatest masters of diction in our language, Milton and
Dryden,
triumph with a dazzling disregard of the soul. If we
continued to
produce Miltons and Drydens it might not so much matter,
but as
things are it is a pity that English poetry has remained so
incomplete. Those who object to the 'artificiality' of
Milton or
Dryden sometimes tell us to 'look into our hearts and
write'. But
that is not looking deep enough; Racine or Donne looked
into a good
deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral
cortex, the
nervous system, and the digestive tracts.May we not
conclude, then,
that Donne, Crashaw, Vaughan, Herbert and Lord Herbert,
Marvell,
King, Cowley at his best, are in the direct current of
English
poetry, and that their faults should be reprimanded by this
standard
rather than coddled by antiquarian affection ? They have
been enough
praised in terms which are implicit limitations because they
are 'metaphysical' or 'witty', 'quaint' or 'obscure',
though at their
best they have not these attributes more than other serious
poets. On
the other hand we must not reject the criticism of Johnson
(a
dangerous person to disagree with) without having mastered
it,
without having assimilated the Johnsonian canons of taste.
In reading
the celebrated passage in his essay on Cowley we must
remember that
by wit he clearly means something more serious than we
usually mean
today; in his criticism of their versification we must
remember in
what a narrow discipline he was trained, but also how well
trained;
we must remember that Johnson tortures chiefly the chief
offenders,
Cowley and Cleveland. It would be a fruitful work, and one
requiring
a substantial book, to break up the classification of
Johnson (for
there has been none since) and exhibit these poets in all
their
difference of kind and of degree, from the massive music of
Donne to
the faint, pleasing tinkle of Aurelian Townshend -
whose "Dialogue
between a Pilgrim and Time" is one of the few regrettable
omissions
from the excellent anthology of Professor Grierson.
The term "Metaphysical Poet" was first coined by the critic
Samuel
Johnson (1709-1784) and he used it as a disparaging term.
Earlier,
John Dryden had also been critical of the group of poets he
grouped
together as too proud of their wit. Johnson and Dryden
valued the
clarity, restraint and shapeliness of the poets of Augustan
Rome
(which is why some 18th century poets are
called "Augustan," and
therefore were antagonistic towards poets of the mid-17th
century.
The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18th
and 19th
centuries (obviously, the Romantic poets found little in
this heavily
intellectualized poetry). At the end of the 19th century
and in the
beginning of the 20th century, interest in this group
picked up, and
especially important was T.S. Eliot's famous essay "The
Metaphysical
Poets" (1921). Interest peaked this century with the New
Critics
school around mid-century, and now is tempering off a bit,
though
Donne, the original "Big Name" is being superceded now by
interest
in George Herbert, who's religious seeking and questioning
seems to
be hitting a critical nerve
Outstanding history................
Will Dockery
2019-03-21 22:52:37 UTC
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"The Metaphysical Poets"
First published in the Times Literary Supplement, 20
October 1921.
By collecting these poems from the work of a generation
more often
named than read, and more often read than profitably
studied,
Professor Grierson has rendered a service of some
importance.
Certainly the reader will meet with many poems already
preserved in
other anthologies, at the same time that he discovers poems
such as
those of Aurelian Townshend or Lord Herbert of Cherbury here
included. But the function of such an anthology as this is
neither
that of Professor Saintsbury's admirable edition of
Caroline poets
nor that of the Oxford Book of English Verse. Mr.
Grierson's book is
in itself a piece of criticism, and a provocation of
criticism; and
we think that he was right in including so many poems of
Donne,
elsewhere (though not in many editions) accessible, as
documents in
the case of 'metaphysical poetry'. The phrase has long done
duty as a
term of abuse, or as the label of a quaint and pleasant
taste. The
question is to what extent the so-called metaphysicals
formed a
school (in our own time we should say a 'movement'), and
how far this
so-called school or movement is a digression from the main
current.Not only is it extremely difficult to define
metaphysical
poetry, but difficult to decide what poets practice it and
in which
of their verses. The poetry of Donne (to whom Marvell and
Bishop King
are sometimes nearer than any of the other authors) is late
Elizabethan, its feeling often very close to that of
Chapman.
The 'courtly' poetry is derivative from Jonson, who borrowed
liberally from the Latin; it expires in the next century
with the
sentiment and witticism of Prior. There is finally the
devotional
verse of Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw (echoed long after by
Christina Rossetti and Francis Thompson); Crashaw,
sometimes more
profound and less sectarian than the others, has a quality
which
returns through the Elizabethan period to the early
Italians. It is
difficult to find any precise use of metaphor, simile, or
other
conceit, which is common to all the poets and at the same
time
important enough as an element of style to isolate these
poets as a
group. Donne, and often Cowley, employ a device which is
sometimes
considered characteristically 'metaphysical'; the
elaboration
(contrasted with the condensation) of a figure of speech to
the
furthest stage to which ingenuity can carry it. Thus Cowley
develops
the commonplace comparison of the world to a chess-board
through long
stanzas ("To Destiny"), and Donne, with more grace, in "A
Valediction," the comparison of two lovers to a pair of
compasses.
But elsewhere we find, instead of the mere explication of
the content
of a comparison, a development by rapid association of
thought which
requires considerable agility on the part of the reader.
On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All,
So cloth each teare,
Which thee cloth weare,
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved
so.
Here we find at least two connections which are not
implicit in the
first figure, but are forced upon it by the poet: from the
geographer's globe to the tear, and the tear to the deluge.
On the
other hand, some of Donne's most successful and
characteristic
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
where the most powerful effect is produced by the sudden
contrast of
associations of 'bright hair' and of 'bore'. This
telescoping of
images and multiplied associations is characteristic of the
phrase of
some of the dramatists of the period which Donne knew: not
to mention
Shakespeare, it is frequent in Middleton, Webster, and
Tourneur, and
is one of the sources of the vitality of their
language.Johnson, who
employed the term 'metaphysical poets', apparently having
Donne,
Cleveland, and Cowley chiefly in mind, remarks of them
that 'the most
heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'. The
force of
this impeachment lies in the failure of the conjunction,
the fact
that often the ideas are yoked but not united; and if we
are to judge
of styles of poetry by their abuse, enough examples may be
found in
Cleveland to justify Johnson's condemnation. But a degree of
heterogeneity of material compelled into unity by the
operation of
the poet's mind is omnipresent in poetry. We need not
select for
Notre ame est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie;
we may find it in some of the best lines of Johnson himself
("The
His fate was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
where the effect is due to a contrast of ideas, different
in degree
but the same in principle, as that which Johnson mildly
reprehended.
And in one of the finest poems of the age (a poem which
could not
have been written in any other age), the "Exequy" of Bishop
King, the
extended comparison is used with perfect success: the idea
and the
simile become one, in the passage in which the Bishop
illustrates his
impatience to see his dead wife, under the figure of a
Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way, And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And ev'ry houre a step towards thee.
At night when I retake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my West
Of life, almost by eight houres sail,
Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale....
But heark! My Pulse, like a soft Drum
Beats my approach, tells Thee I come;
And slow howere my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by Thee
.
(In the last few lines there is that effect of terror which
is
several times attained by one of Bishop King's admirers,
Edgar Poe.)
Again, we may justly take these quatrains from Lord
Herbert's Ode,
stanzas which would, we think, be immediately pronounced to
be of the
So when from hence we shall he gone,
And he no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall he both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes, which did that beauty crown,
Were like two starrs, that having faln down,
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.
There is nothing in these lines (with the possible
exception of the
stars, a simile not at once grasped, but lovely and
justified) which
fits Johnson's general observations on the metaphysical
poets in his
essay on Cowley. A good deal resides in the richness of
association
which is at the same time borrowed from and given to the
word 'becalmed'; but the meaning is clear, the language
simple and
elegant. It is to be observed that the language of these
poets is as
a rule simple and pure; in the verse of George Herbert this
simplicity is carried as far as it can go - a simplicity
emulated
without success by numerous modern poets. The structure of
the
sentences, on the other hand, is sometimes far from simple,
but this
is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling. The
effect,
at its best, is far less artificial than that of an ode by
Gray. And
as this fidelity induces variety of thought and feeling, so
it
induces variety of music. We doubt whether, in the
eighteenth
century, could be found two poems in nominally the same
metre, so
dissimilar as Marvell's "Coy Mistress" and Crashaw's "Saint
Teresa";
the one producing an effect of great speed by the use of
short
syllables, and the other an ecclesiastical solemnity by the
use of
Love thou art absolute sole lord
Of life and death.
If so shrewd and sensitive (though so limited) a critic as
Johnson
failed to define metaphysical poetry by its faults, it is
worth while
to inquire whether we may not have more success by adopting
the
opposite method: by assuming that the poets of the
seventeenth
century (up to the Revolution) were the direct and normal
development
of the precedent age; and, without prejudicing their case
by the
adjective 'metaphysical', consider whether their virtue was
not
something permanently valuable, which subsequently
disappeared, but
ought not to have disappeared. Johnson has hit, perhaps by
accident,
on one of their peculiarities, when he observed that 'their
attempts
were always analytic'; he would not agree that, after the
dissociation, they put the material together again in a new
unity.It
is certain that the dramatic verse of the later Elizabethan
and early
Jacobean poets expresses a degree of development of
sensibility which
is not found in any of the prose, good as it often is. If
we except
Marlowe, a man of prodigious intelligence, these dramatists
were
directly or indirectly (it is at least a tenable theory)
affected by
Montaigne Even if we except also Jonson and Chapman, these
two were
notably erudite, and were notably men who incorporated their
erudition into their sensibility: their mode of feeling was
directly
and freshly altered by their reading and thought. In Chapman
especially there is a direct sensuous apprehension of
thought, or a
recreation of thought into feeling, which is exactly what
we find in
in this one thing, all the discipline
Of manners and of manhood is contained
A man to join himself with th' Universe
In his main sway, and make in all things fit
One with that All, and go on, round as it
Not plucking from the whole his wretched part
And into straits, or into nought revert,
Wishing the complete Universe might be
Subject to such a rag of it as he;
But to consider great Necessity.
No, when the fight begins within himself
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet - both tug -
He's left, himself i' the middle; the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
It is perhaps somewhat less fair, though very tempting as
both poets
are concerned with the perpetuation of love by offspring,
to compare
with the stanzas already quoted from Lord Herbert's Ode the
following
One walked between wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good
Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.
The difference is not a simple difference of degree between
poets. It
is something which had happened to the mind of England
between the
time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of
Tennyson
and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual
poet and
the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and
they think;
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the
odour of a
rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his
sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for
its work,
it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the
ordinary
man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The
latter falls
in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have
nothing to
do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or
the smell
of cooking; m the mind of the poet these experiences are
always
forming new wholes.We may express the difference by the
following
theory: The poets of the seventeenth century, the
successors of the
dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of
sensibility
which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple,
artificial, difficult, or fantastic, as their predecessors
were; no
less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or
Cino. In
the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from
which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is
natural,
was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful
poets of the
century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed
certain
poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude
of the
effect concealed the absence of others. The language went
on and in
some respects improved; the best verse of Collins, Gray,
Johnson, and
even Goldsmith satisfies some of our fastidious demands
better than
that of Donne or Marvell or King. But while the language
became more
refined, the feeling became more crude. The feeling, the
sensibility,
expressed in the "Country Churchyard" (to say nothing of
Tennyson and
Browning) is cruder than that in the"Coy Mistress."The
second effect
of the influence of Milton and Dryden followed from the
first, and
was therefore slow in manifestation. The sentimental age
began early
in the eighteenth century, and continued. The poets
revolted against
the ratiocinative, the descriptive; they thought and felt
by fits,
unbalanced; they reflected. In one or two passages of
Shelley's "Triumph of Life," in the second "Hyperion" there
are
traces of a struggle toward unification of sensibility. But
Keats and
Shelley died, and Tennyson and Browning ruminated.After
this brief
exposition of a theory - too brief, perhaps, to carry
conviction - we
may ask, what would have been the fate of
the 'metaphysical' had the
current of poetry descended in a direct line from them, as
it
descended in a direct line to them ? They would not,
certainly, be
classified as metaphysical. The possible interests of a
poet are
unlimited; the more intelligent he is the better; the more
intelligent he is the more likely that he will have
interests: our
only condition is that he turn them into poetry, and not
merely
meditate on them poetically. A philosophical theory which
has entered
into poetry is established, for its truth or falsity in one
sense
ceases to matter, and its truth in another sense is proved.
The poets
in question have, like other poets, various faults. But
they were, at
best, engaged in the task of trying to find the verbal
equivalent for
states of mind and feeling. And this means both that they
are more
mature, and that they wear better, than later poets of
certainly not
less literary ability.It is not a permanent necessity that
poets
should be interested in philosophy, or in any other
subject. We can
only say that it appears likely that poets in our
civilization, as it
exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization
comprehends
great variety and complexity, and this variety and
complexity,
playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various
and complex
results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive,
more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if
necessary, language into his meaning. (A brilliant and
extreme
statement of this view, with which it is not requisite to
associate
oneself, is that of M. Jean Epstein, "La Poesie d'aujourd-
hui.")
Hence we get something which looks very much like the
conceit - we
get, in fact, a method curiously similar to that of
the 'metaphysical
poets', similar also in its use of obscure words and of
simple
phrasing.
O geraniums diaphanes, guerroyeurs sortileges,
Sacrileges monomanes!
Emballages, devergondages, douches! O pressoirs
Des vendanges des grands soirs!
Layettes aux abois,
Thyrses au fond des bois!
Transfusions, represailles,
Relevailles, compresses et l'eternal potion,
Angelus! n'en pouvoir plus
De de'bacles nuptiales! de debacles nuptiales!
Wile est bien loin, elle pleure,
Le grand vent se lamente aussi . .
Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems,
are nearer
to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. But
poets more
classical than they have the same essential quality of
transmuting
ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into
a state of
mind.
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est egal a son vaste appetit.
Ah, que le monde est grand a la clarte des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
In French literature the great master of the seventeenth
century
Racine - and the great master of the nineteenth -
Baudelaire - are in
some ways more like each other than they are like anyone
else. The
greatest two masters of diction are also the greatest two
psychologists, the most curious explorers of the soul. It is
interesting to speculate whether it is not a misfortune
that two of
the greatest masters of diction in our language, Milton and
Dryden,
triumph with a dazzling disregard of the soul. If we
continued to
produce Miltons and Drydens it might not so much matter,
but as
things are it is a pity that English poetry has remained so
incomplete. Those who object to the 'artificiality' of
Milton or
Dryden sometimes tell us to 'look into our hearts and
write'. But
that is not looking deep enough; Racine or Donne looked
into a good
deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral
cortex, the
nervous system, and the digestive tracts.May we not
conclude, then,
that Donne, Crashaw, Vaughan, Herbert and Lord Herbert,
Marvell,
King, Cowley at his best, are in the direct current of
English
poetry, and that their faults should be reprimanded by this
standard
rather than coddled by antiquarian affection ? They have
been enough
praised in terms which are implicit limitations because they
are 'metaphysical' or 'witty', 'quaint' or 'obscure',
though at their
best they have not these attributes more than other serious
poets. On
the other hand we must not reject the criticism of Johnson
(a
dangerous person to disagree with) without having mastered
it,
without having assimilated the Johnsonian canons of taste.
In reading
the celebrated passage in his essay on Cowley we must
remember that
by wit he clearly means something more serious than we
usually mean
today; in his criticism of their versification we must
remember in
what a narrow discipline he was trained, but also how well
trained;
we must remember that Johnson tortures chiefly the chief
offenders,
Cowley and Cleveland. It would be a fruitful work, and one
requiring
a substantial book, to break up the classification of
Johnson (for
there has been none since) and exhibit these poets in all
their
difference of kind and of degree, from the massive music of
Donne to
the faint, pleasing tinkle of Aurelian Townshend -
whose "Dialogue
between a Pilgrim and Time" is one of the few regrettable
omissions
from the excellent anthology of Professor Grierson.
The term "Metaphysical Poet" was first coined by the critic
Samuel
Johnson (1709-1784) and he used it as a disparaging term.
Earlier,
John Dryden had also been critical of the group of poets he
grouped
together as too proud of their wit. Johnson and Dryden
valued the
clarity, restraint and shapeliness of the poets of Augustan
Rome
(which is why some 18th century poets are
called "Augustan," and
therefore were antagonistic towards poets of the mid-17th
century.
The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18th
and 19th
centuries (obviously, the Romantic poets found little in
this heavily
intellectualized poetry). At the end of the 19th century
and in the
beginning of the 20th century, interest in this group
picked up, and
especially important was T.S. Eliot's famous essay "The
Metaphysical
Poets" (1921). Interest peaked this century with the New
Critics
school around mid-century, and now is tempering off a bit,
though
Donne, the original "Big Name" is being superceded now by
interest
in George Herbert, who's religious seeking and questioning
seems to
be hitting a critical nerve
Outstanding history................
Good find, Zod...
Will Dockery
2019-01-11 02:46:30 UTC
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Permalink
Yes, the thread is here in the archives for when interest rates discussion.
General Zod
2019-01-12 03:01:45 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Will Dockery
Yes, the thread is here in the archives for when interest rates discussion.
One of these days……………...
General Zod
2019-04-13 08:35:13 UTC
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Post by a***@coolgroups.com
"The Metaphysical Poets"
First published in the Times Literary Supplement, 20
October 1921.
By collecting these poems from the work of a generation
more often
named than read, and more often read than profitably
studied,
Professor Grierson has rendered a service of some
importance.
Certainly the reader will meet with many poems already
preserved in
other anthologies, at the same time that he discovers poems
such as
those of Aurelian Townshend or Lord Herbert of Cherbury here
included. But the function of such an anthology as this is
neither
that of Professor Saintsbury's admirable edition of
Caroline poets
nor that of the Oxford Book of English Verse. Mr.
Grierson's book is
in itself a piece of criticism, and a provocation of
criticism; and
we think that he was right in including so many poems of
Donne,
elsewhere (though not in many editions) accessible, as
documents in
the case of 'metaphysical poetry'. The phrase has long done
duty as a
term of abuse, or as the label of a quaint and pleasant
taste. The
question is to what extent the so-called metaphysicals
formed a
school (in our own time we should say a 'movement'), and
how far this
so-called school or movement is a digression from the main
current.Not only is it extremely difficult to define
metaphysical
poetry, but difficult to decide what poets practice it and
in which
of their verses. The poetry of Donne (to whom Marvell and
Bishop King
are sometimes nearer than any of the other authors) is late
Elizabethan, its feeling often very close to that of
Chapman.
The 'courtly' poetry is derivative from Jonson, who borrowed
liberally from the Latin; it expires in the next century
with the
sentiment and witticism of Prior. There is finally the
devotional
verse of Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw (echoed long after by
Christina Rossetti and Francis Thompson); Crashaw,
sometimes more
profound and less sectarian than the others, has a quality
which
returns through the Elizabethan period to the early
Italians. It is
difficult to find any precise use of metaphor, simile, or
other
conceit, which is common to all the poets and at the same
time
important enough as an element of style to isolate these
poets as a
group. Donne, and often Cowley, employ a device which is
sometimes
considered characteristically 'metaphysical'; the
elaboration
(contrasted with the condensation) of a figure of speech to
the
furthest stage to which ingenuity can carry it. Thus Cowley
develops
the commonplace comparison of the world to a chess-board
through long
stanzas ("To Destiny"), and Donne, with more grace, in "A
Valediction," the comparison of two lovers to a pair of
compasses.
But elsewhere we find, instead of the mere explication of
the content
of a comparison, a development by rapid association of
thought which
requires considerable agility on the part of the reader.
On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All,
So cloth each teare,
Which thee cloth weare,
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy tears mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved
so.
Here we find at least two connections which are not
implicit in the
first figure, but are forced upon it by the poet: from the
geographer's globe to the tear, and the tear to the deluge.
On the
other hand, some of Donne's most successful and
characteristic
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
where the most powerful effect is produced by the sudden
contrast of
associations of 'bright hair' and of 'bore'. This
telescoping of
images and multiplied associations is characteristic of the
phrase of
some of the dramatists of the period which Donne knew: not
to mention
Shakespeare, it is frequent in Middleton, Webster, and
Tourneur, and
is one of the sources of the vitality of their
language.Johnson, who
employed the term 'metaphysical poets', apparently having
Donne,
Cleveland, and Cowley chiefly in mind, remarks of them
that 'the most
heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'. The
force of
this impeachment lies in the failure of the conjunction,
the fact
that often the ideas are yoked but not united; and if we
are to judge
of styles of poetry by their abuse, enough examples may be
found in
Cleveland to justify Johnson's condemnation. But a degree of
heterogeneity of material compelled into unity by the
operation of
the poet's mind is omnipresent in poetry. We need not
select for
Notre ame est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie;
we may find it in some of the best lines of Johnson himself
("The
His fate was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left a name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
where the effect is due to a contrast of ideas, different
in degree
but the same in principle, as that which Johnson mildly
reprehended.
And in one of the finest poems of the age (a poem which
could not
have been written in any other age), the "Exequy" of Bishop
King, the
extended comparison is used with perfect success: the idea
and the
simile become one, in the passage in which the Bishop
illustrates his
impatience to see his dead wife, under the figure of a
Stay for me there; I will not faile
To meet thee in that hollow Vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way, And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And ev'ry houre a step towards thee.
At night when I retake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my West
Of life, almost by eight houres sail,
Than when sleep breath'd his drowsy gale....
But heark! My Pulse, like a soft Drum
Beats my approach, tells Thee I come;
And slow howere my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by Thee
.
(In the last few lines there is that effect of terror which
is
several times attained by one of Bishop King's admirers,
Edgar Poe.)
Again, we may justly take these quatrains from Lord
Herbert's Ode,
stanzas which would, we think, be immediately pronounced to
be of the
So when from hence we shall he gone,
And he no more, nor you, nor I,
As one another's mystery,
Each shall he both, yet both but one.
This said, in her up-lifted face,
Her eyes, which did that beauty crown,
Were like two starrs, that having faln down,
While such a moveless silent peace
Did seize on their becalmed sense,
One would have thought some influence
Their ravished spirits did possess.
There is nothing in these lines (with the possible
exception of the
stars, a simile not at once grasped, but lovely and
justified) which
fits Johnson's general observations on the metaphysical
poets in his
essay on Cowley. A good deal resides in the richness of
association
which is at the same time borrowed from and given to the
word 'becalmed'; but the meaning is clear, the language
simple and
elegant. It is to be observed that the language of these
poets is as
a rule simple and pure; in the verse of George Herbert this
simplicity is carried as far as it can go - a simplicity
emulated
without success by numerous modern poets. The structure of
the
sentences, on the other hand, is sometimes far from simple,
but this
is not a vice; it is a fidelity to thought and feeling. The
effect,
at its best, is far less artificial than that of an ode by
Gray. And
as this fidelity induces variety of thought and feeling, so
it
induces variety of music. We doubt whether, in the
eighteenth
century, could be found two poems in nominally the same
metre, so
dissimilar as Marvell's "Coy Mistress" and Crashaw's "Saint
Teresa";
the one producing an effect of great speed by the use of
short
syllables, and the other an ecclesiastical solemnity by the
use of
Love thou art absolute sole lord
Of life and death.
If so shrewd and sensitive (though so limited) a critic as
Johnson
failed to define metaphysical poetry by its faults, it is
worth while
to inquire whether we may not have more success by adopting
the
opposite method: by assuming that the poets of the
seventeenth
century (up to the Revolution) were the direct and normal
development
of the precedent age; and, without prejudicing their case
by the
adjective 'metaphysical', consider whether their virtue was
not
something permanently valuable, which subsequently
disappeared, but
ought not to have disappeared. Johnson has hit, perhaps by
accident,
on one of their peculiarities, when he observed that 'their
attempts
were always analytic'; he would not agree that, after the
dissociation, they put the material together again in a new
unity.It
is certain that the dramatic verse of the later Elizabethan
and early
Jacobean poets expresses a degree of development of
sensibility which
is not found in any of the prose, good as it often is. If
we except
Marlowe, a man of prodigious intelligence, these dramatists
were
directly or indirectly (it is at least a tenable theory)
affected by
Montaigne Even if we except also Jonson and Chapman, these
two were
notably erudite, and were notably men who incorporated their
erudition into their sensibility: their mode of feeling was
directly
and freshly altered by their reading and thought. In Chapman
especially there is a direct sensuous apprehension of
thought, or a
recreation of thought into feeling, which is exactly what
we find in
in this one thing, all the discipline
Of manners and of manhood is contained
A man to join himself with th' Universe
In his main sway, and make in all things fit
One with that All, and go on, round as it
Not plucking from the whole his wretched part
And into straits, or into nought revert,
Wishing the complete Universe might be
Subject to such a rag of it as he;
But to consider great Necessity.
No, when the fight begins within himself
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet - both tug -
He's left, himself i' the middle; the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
It is perhaps somewhat less fair, though very tempting as
both poets
are concerned with the perpetuation of love by offspring,
to compare
with the stanzas already quoted from Lord Herbert's Ode the
following
One walked between wife and child,
With measured footfall firm and mild,
And now and then he gravely smiled.
The prudent partner of his blood
Leaned on him, faithful, gentle, good
Wearing the rose of womanhood.
And in their double love secure,
The little maiden walked demure,
Pacing with downward eyelids pure.
These three made unity so sweet,
My frozen heart began to beat,
Remembering its ancient heat.
The difference is not a simple difference of degree between
poets. It
is something which had happened to the mind of England
between the
time of Donne or Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the time of
Tennyson
and Browning; it is the difference between the intellectual
poet and
the reflective poet. Tennyson and Browning are poets, and
they think;
but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the
odour of a
rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his
sensibility. When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for
its work,
it is constantly amalgamating disparate experience; the
ordinary
man's experience is chaotic, irregular, fragmentary. The
latter falls
in love, or reads Spinoza, and these two experiences have
nothing to
do with each other, or with the noise of the typewriter or
the smell
of cooking; m the mind of the poet these experiences are
always
forming new wholes.We may express the difference by the
following
theory: The poets of the seventeenth century, the
successors of the
dramatists of the sixteenth, possessed a mechanism of
sensibility
which could devour any kind of experience. They are simple,
artificial, difficult, or fantastic, as their predecessors
were; no
less nor more than Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or
Cino. In
the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set
in, from
which we have never recovered; and this dissociation, as is
natural,
was aggravated by the influence of the two most powerful
poets of the
century, Milton and Dryden. Each of these men performed
certain
poetic functions so magnificently well that the magnitude
of the
effect concealed the absence of others. The language went
on and in
some respects improved; the best verse of Collins, Gray,
Johnson, and
even Goldsmith satisfies some of our fastidious demands
better than
that of Donne or Marvell or King. But while the language
became more
refined, the feeling became more crude. The feeling, the
sensibility,
expressed in the "Country Churchyard" (to say nothing of
Tennyson and
Browning) is cruder than that in the"Coy Mistress."The
second effect
of the influence of Milton and Dryden followed from the
first, and
was therefore slow in manifestation. The sentimental age
began early
in the eighteenth century, and continued. The poets
revolted against
the ratiocinative, the descriptive; they thought and felt
by fits,
unbalanced; they reflected. In one or two passages of
Shelley's "Triumph of Life," in the second "Hyperion" there
are
traces of a struggle toward unification of sensibility. But
Keats and
Shelley died, and Tennyson and Browning ruminated.After
this brief
exposition of a theory - too brief, perhaps, to carry
conviction - we
may ask, what would have been the fate of
the 'metaphysical' had the
current of poetry descended in a direct line from them, as
it
descended in a direct line to them ? They would not,
certainly, be
classified as metaphysical. The possible interests of a
poet are
unlimited; the more intelligent he is the better; the more
intelligent he is the more likely that he will have
interests: our
only condition is that he turn them into poetry, and not
merely
meditate on them poetically. A philosophical theory which
has entered
into poetry is established, for its truth or falsity in one
sense
ceases to matter, and its truth in another sense is proved.
The poets
in question have, like other poets, various faults. But
they were, at
best, engaged in the task of trying to find the verbal
equivalent for
states of mind and feeling. And this means both that they
are more
mature, and that they wear better, than later poets of
certainly not
less literary ability.It is not a permanent necessity that
poets
should be interested in philosophy, or in any other
subject. We can
only say that it appears likely that poets in our
civilization, as it
exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization
comprehends
great variety and complexity, and this variety and
complexity,
playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various
and complex
results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive,
more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if
necessary, language into his meaning. (A brilliant and
extreme
statement of this view, with which it is not requisite to
associate
oneself, is that of M. Jean Epstein, "La Poesie d'aujourd-
hui.")
Hence we get something which looks very much like the
conceit - we
get, in fact, a method curiously similar to that of
the 'metaphysical
poets', similar also in its use of obscure words and of
simple
phrasing.
O geraniums diaphanes, guerroyeurs sortileges,
Sacrileges monomanes!
Emballages, devergondages, douches! O pressoirs
Des vendanges des grands soirs!
Layettes aux abois,
Thyrses au fond des bois!
Transfusions, represailles,
Relevailles, compresses et l'eternal potion,
Angelus! n'en pouvoir plus
De de'bacles nuptiales! de debacles nuptiales!
Wile est bien loin, elle pleure,
Le grand vent se lamente aussi . .
Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbiere in many of his poems,
are nearer
to the 'school of Donne' than any modern English poet. But
poets more
classical than they have the same essential quality of
transmuting
ideas into sensations, of transforming an observation into
a state of
mind.
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est egal a son vaste appetit.
Ah, que le monde est grand a la clarte des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!
In French literature the great master of the seventeenth
century
Racine - and the great master of the nineteenth -
Baudelaire - are in
some ways more like each other than they are like anyone
else. The
greatest two masters of diction are also the greatest two
psychologists, the most curious explorers of the soul. It is
interesting to speculate whether it is not a misfortune
that two of
the greatest masters of diction in our language, Milton and
Dryden,
triumph with a dazzling disregard of the soul. If we
continued to
produce Miltons and Drydens it might not so much matter,
but as
things are it is a pity that English poetry has remained so
incomplete. Those who object to the 'artificiality' of
Milton or
Dryden sometimes tell us to 'look into our hearts and
write'. But
that is not looking deep enough; Racine or Donne looked
into a good
deal more than the heart. One must look into the cerebral
cortex, the
nervous system, and the digestive tracts.May we not
conclude, then,
that Donne, Crashaw, Vaughan, Herbert and Lord Herbert,
Marvell,
King, Cowley at his best, are in the direct current of
English
poetry, and that their faults should be reprimanded by this
standard
rather than coddled by antiquarian affection ? They have
been enough
praised in terms which are implicit limitations because they
are 'metaphysical' or 'witty', 'quaint' or 'obscure',
though at their
best they have not these attributes more than other serious
poets. On
the other hand we must not reject the criticism of Johnson
(a
dangerous person to disagree with) without having mastered
it,
without having assimilated the Johnsonian canons of taste.
In reading
the celebrated passage in his essay on Cowley we must
remember that
by wit he clearly means something more serious than we
usually mean
today; in his criticism of their versification we must
remember in
what a narrow discipline he was trained, but also how well
trained;
we must remember that Johnson tortures chiefly the chief
offenders,
Cowley and Cleveland. It would be a fruitful work, and one
requiring
a substantial book, to break up the classification of
Johnson (for
there has been none since) and exhibit these poets in all
their
difference of kind and of degree, from the massive music of
Donne to
the faint, pleasing tinkle of Aurelian Townshend -
whose "Dialogue
between a Pilgrim and Time" is one of the few regrettable
omissions
from the excellent anthology of Professor Grierson.
The term "Metaphysical Poet" was first coined by the critic
Samuel
Johnson (1709-1784) and he used it as a disparaging term.
Earlier,
John Dryden had also been critical of the group of poets he
grouped
together as too proud of their wit. Johnson and Dryden
valued the
clarity, restraint and shapeliness of the poets of Augustan
Rome
(which is why some 18th century poets are
called "Augustan," and
therefore were antagonistic towards poets of the mid-17th
century.
The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18th
and 19th
centuries (obviously, the Romantic poets found little in
this heavily
intellectualized poetry). At the end of the 19th century
and in the
beginning of the 20th century, interest in this group
picked up, and
especially important was T.S. Eliot's famous essay "The
Metaphysical
Poets" (1921). Interest peaked this century with the New
Critics
school around mid-century, and now is tempering off a bit,
though
Donne, the original "Big Name" is being superceded now by
interest
in George Herbert, who's religious seeking and questioning
seems to
be hitting a critical nerve
After Surrealists we can move on to Metaphysicals... poets...
Will Dockery
2019-04-14 02:07:42 UTC
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Good move, since they are related genres.
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-14 03:43:34 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
Good move, since they are related genres.
Really? Donne and Marvell?

You've got a lot of explaining to do, Will.
General Zod
2019-04-14 21:44:55 UTC
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Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Good move, since they are related genres.
Really? Donne and Marvell?
You've got a lot of explaining to do, Will.
I am sure Doc will do that.......
Will Dockery
2019-04-14 04:53:54 UTC
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Yes, I see a connection between the surreal and the metaphysical.
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-14 04:55:28 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
Yes, I see a connection between the surreal and the metaphysical.
Can you explain what that connection is?
Will Dockery
2019-04-14 05:45:28 UTC
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Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Yes, I see a connection between the surreal and the metaphysical.
Can you explain what that connection is?
I sense we might have another long argument coming, so I'll just say that /I/ see the connection and leave it at that for now.

:)
General Zod
2019-04-14 07:47:57 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Yes, I see a connection between the surreal and the metaphysical.
Can you explain what that connection is?
I sense we might have another long argument coming, so I'll just say that /I/ see the connection and leave it at that for now.
:)
True Pendragon just wants another argument.....
Will Dockery
2019-04-15 22:44:54 UTC
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Speaking of reality, how is your elbow, Corey?
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-15 22:47:08 UTC
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Speaking of reality, where is Quasimodo buried?
Chafetz Chayim ha'Yehu'di
2019-04-15 23:03:13 UTC
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Post by Hieronymous Corey
Speaking of reality, where is Quasimodo buried?
In Lon Chaney Sr's crypt

STEPHAN PICKERING / חפץ ח"ם בן אברהם
Torah אלילה Yehu'di Apikores / Philologia Kabbalistica Speculativa Researcher
לחיות זמן רב ולשגשג...לעולם לא עוד
THE KABBALAH FRACTALS PROJECT
לעולם לא אשכח

IN PROGRESS: Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham v'R
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-15 23:41:04 UTC
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You obviously have difficulty distinguishing what is real from what is not.
General Zod
2019-04-15 23:44:09 UTC
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Post by Hieronymous Corey
You obviously have difficulty distinguishing what is real from what is not.
Hello Corey how is your elbow today?
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 00:06:22 UTC
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Why don't you go read a book, learn or do something productive?
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-14 08:05:13 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Yes, I see a connection between the surreal and the metaphysical.
Can you explain what that connection is?
I sense we might have another long argument coming, so I'll just say that /I/ see the connection and leave it at that for now.
I was hoping we might see this as an offshoot to our discussion of surrealism.
General Zod
2019-04-14 08:11:24 UTC
Reply
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Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Yes, I see a connection between the surreal and the metaphysical.
Can you explain what that connection is?
I sense we might have another long argument coming, so I'll just say that /I/ see the connection and leave it at that for now.
I was hoping we might see this as an offshoot to our discussion of surrealism.
I am agreeable to that but please call me by my chosen name....

Call me Zod....

Thanks....
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-14 09:14:18 UTC
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Post by General Zod
Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Yes, I see a connection between the surreal and the metaphysical.
Can you explain what that connection is?
I sense we might have another long argument coming, so I'll just say that /I/ see the connection and leave it at that for now.
I was hoping we might see this as an offshoot to our discussion of surrealism.
I am agreeable to that but please call me by my chosen name....
Call me Zod....
Thanks....
Shut up, Todd.
Will Dockery
2019-04-14 09:23:14 UTC
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I was pretty much seeing it the same way, Pendragon.
Will Dockery
2019-04-15 08:40:35 UTC
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Indeed, let's keep this one near the top of the page.
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-15 12:52:46 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
Indeed, let's keep this one near the top of the page.
Better yet, let's discuss your claim that the poetry of Donne and Marvell is similar to that of the Surrealists.
ME
2019-04-15 13:00:30 UTC
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Post by Michael Pendragon
Post by Will Dockery
Indeed, let's keep this one near the top of the page.
Better yet, let's discuss your claim that the poetry of Donne and Marvell is similar to that of the Surrealists.
And there shall be the sound of silence, until one of the three stooges comes to deflect. Because everyone here knows that pissbum cannot, and doesn’t have the ability to, discuss poetry.. All he’s capable of is to copy and paste someone else’s opinion.
Will Dockery
2019-04-15 14:47:13 UTC
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Post by Michael Pendragon
Better yet, let's discuss your claim that the poetry of Donne and Marvell is similar to that of the Surrealists.
I didn't name anyone, but see the connection has with surrealism:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

"Metaphysics... examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality."
m***@gmail.com
2019-04-15 15:11:27 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
Post by Michael Pendragon
Better yet, let's discuss your claim that the poetry of Donne and Marvell is similar to that of the Surrealists.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics
"Metaphysics... examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality."
Copying and pasting a definition of "Metaphysics" doesn't automatically link it to Surrealist Poetry. Nor are "Metaphysics" and "Metaphysical Poetry" the same thing.

You had earlier (incorrectly) defined "Surrealism" as being "dreamlike" and sharing some of the qualities of an LSD trip.

In linking Metaphysical Poetry to Surrealist Poetry, you are basically saying that Metaphysical Poetry has both dreamlike and hallucinogenic qualities to it.

If so, could you provide some examples. John Donne was the most successful of the Metaphysical Poets. Could you provide a dreamlike or hallucinogenic passage from one of his poems?

Do you think that one of his best known poems, "Song (Go and Catch a Falling Star)" is dreamlike or hallucinogenic?

Song: (Go and catch a falling star)


Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true, and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet;
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
Will Dockery
2019-04-15 19:12:10 UTC
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Post by m***@gmail.com
Post by Will Dockery
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics
"Metaphysics... examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality."
So, Metaphysics itself does, in my view, relate to Surrealism.
Post by m***@gmail.com
Copying and pasting a definition of "Metaphysics" doesn't automatically link it to Surrealist Poetry. Nor are "Metaphysics" and "Metaphysical Poetry" the same thing.
Metaphysical poetry should have elements of Metaphysics... if it doesn't, then there may not be a connection at all.

I've always thought there must be a connection between Metaphysics and Metaphysical poetry, as Surrealist poetry connects to the overall Surrealist artists, but I haven't eve delved that deeply into it.

If so, I'm giving you the floor here... since as you know I haven't read or studied those old school poets that often, but seriously, there is zero connection..?
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-15 19:42:26 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
Post by m***@gmail.com
Post by Will Dockery
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics
"Metaphysics... examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality."
So, Metaphysics itself does, in my view, relate to Surrealism.
Metaphyics and Surrealism are not the same as Metaphysical Poetry and Surrealist Poetry.

Metaphysics deals with "the fundamental nature of reality." Surrealism deals with the "irrational reality" of dreams.

The two are almost polar opposites.

However, the literary movements that bear these names pertain to specific styles, theories and techniques of writing:

Metaphysical Poetry is defined as:

"highly intellectualized poetry marked by bold and ingenious conceits, incongruous imagery, complexity and subtlety of thought, frequent use of paradox, and often by deliberate harshness or rigidity of expression."

Whereas Surrealism as an artistic movement refers to:
"the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations"

A metaphysical poet might attempt to describe the nature of God, the Universe and Man's place in it, the existence of a soul, the Platonic Ideals: the nature of Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, etc.

Whereas a Surrealist poet would present his narrative in a non-linear, acausal form replicating the perceived of reality of the dreamwork, utilize psychological symbols, irrational connections, etc.
Post by Will Dockery
Post by m***@gmail.com
Copying and pasting a definition of "Metaphysics" doesn't automatically link it to Surrealist Poetry. Nor are "Metaphysics" and "Metaphysical Poetry" the same thing.
Metaphysical poetry should have elements of Metaphysics... if it doesn't, then there may not be a connection at all.
I've always thought there must be a connection between Metaphysics and Metaphysical poetry, as Surrealist poetry connects to the overall Surrealist artists, but I haven't eve delved that deeply into it.
If so, I'm giving you the floor here... since as you know I haven't read or studied those old school poets that often, but seriously, there is zero connection..?
The only "connection" is that Metaphysical Poetry address a higher, conceptual reality (God, man's purpose, morals, ideals, etc.) while Surrealist Poetry abandons our normal state of reality for the "surreal" world experienced in dreams. That is, neither school would be writing "Ode to a Basset Hound" or "Lines Written While Contemplating a Sunset from My Back Porch."
Chafetz Chayim ha'Yehu'di
2019-04-15 19:52:54 UTC
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On Monday, April 15, 2019 at 12:42:28 PM UTC-7, FakeJewTroll...

Shalom & Boker tov, Will...this is all plagiarised, and the troll is babbling. Even Andre Breton could not present a consistent definition of 'surrealism' beyond it arose from Dadaist formulae, and the (now discredited) writings of the serial rapist Freud (cf. the excellent overview by Frederick Crews). After Auschwitz, 'surrealism' and 'metaphysical' have no meaning(s), because art/poetry ask: is there anonymity of evil?




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``

STEPHAN PICKERING / חפץ ח"ם בן אברהם
Torah אלילה Yehu'di Apikores / Philologia Kabbalistica Speculativa Researcher
לחיות זמן רב ולשגשג...לעולם לא עוד
THE KABBALAH FRACTALS PROJECT
לעולם לא אשכח

IN PROGRESS: Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham v'Rachel Riva:
davening in the musematic dark
Will Dockery
2019-04-15 19:58:31 UTC
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Post by Chafetz Chayim ha'Yehu'di
On Monday, April 15, 2019 at 12:42:28 PM UTC-7, FakeJewTroll...
Shalom & Boker tov, Will...this is all plagiarised, and the troll is babbling. Even Andre Breton could not present a consistent definition of 'surrealism' beyond it arose from Dadaist formulae, and the (now discredited) writings of the serial rapist Freud (cf. the excellent overview by Frederick Crews). After Auschwitz, 'surrealism' and 'metaphysical' have no meaning(s), because art/poetry ask: is there anonymity of evil?
And I have to ask what is Metaphysical poetry without Metaphysics?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

Metaphysics studies questions related to what it is for something to exist and what types of existence there are. Metaphysics seeks to answer, in an abstract and fully general manner, the questions:[3]

What is there?
What is it like?
Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.

All points that good Surrealists may also ponder from poem to poem.
Chafetz Chayim ha'Yehu'di
2019-04-15 20:08:44 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
All points that good Surrealists may also ponder from poem to poem.
Shalom & Boker tov, Will...one poet who has outlined the parameters of your questions is Ann Huang.

Ann Huang, 2016. 5 techniques used by surrealist poets. www.AnnHuang.com/blog, 20 May
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``

STEPHAN PICKERING / חפץ ח"ם בן אברהם
Torah אלילה Yehu'di Apikores / Philologia Kabbalistica Speculativa Researcher
לחיות זמן רב ולשגשג...לעולם לא עוד
THE KABBALAH FRACTALS PROJECT
לעולם לא אשכח

IN PROGRESS: Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham v'Rachel Riva:
davening in the musematic dark
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-15 20:24:02 UTC
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Post by Chafetz Chayim ha'Yehu'di
Post by Will Dockery
All points that good Surrealists may also ponder from poem to poem.
Shalom & Boker tov, Will...one poet who has outlined the parameters of your questions is Ann Huang.
Ann Huang, 2016. 5 techniques used by surrealist poets. www.AnnHuang.com/blog, 20 May
Looks like the words haven't lost all meaning in a post-Auschwitz world after all.
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-15 20:22:35 UTC
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Post by Chafetz Chayim ha'Yehu'di
On Monday, April 15, 2019 at 12:42:28 PM UTC-7, FakeJewTroll...
Shalom & Boker tov, Will...this is all plagiarised, and the troll is babbling. Even Andre Breton could not present a consistent definition of 'surrealism' beyond it arose from Dadaist formulae, and the (now discredited) writings of the serial rapist Freud (cf. the excellent overview by Frederick Crews). After Auschwitz, 'surrealism' and 'metaphysical' have no meaning(s), because art/poetry ask: is there anonymity of evil?
You give Auschwitz too much credit, Pick.

It might have felt unreal to many of the Jewish people who were sent there, but it had no corresponding effect upon our language.
General Zod
2019-04-15 23:39:20 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
Post by Michael Pendragon
Better yet, let's discuss your claim that the poetry of Donne and Marvell is similar to that of the Surrealists.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics
"Metaphysics... examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality."


Recommended Readings:
Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction by Stephen Mumford - http://amzn.to/1TLrFBv (affiliate link)
An Introduction to Metaphysics by John Carroll & Ned Markosian - http://amzn.to/1U9aTbh (affiliate link)
===================================================
In this lecture we provide an introduction to metaphysics; we examine its history, subject matter, as well as looking at Ludwig Wittgenstein's view of metaphysics.
===================================================
Will Dockery
2019-04-15 19:45:01 UTC
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Okay, so we have a connection after all.
General Zod
2019-04-16 00:08:31 UTC
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In sitting on this old bank of sand watching the river flow....
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 00:22:06 UTC
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It's your holiday.
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 00:47:36 UTC
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Stop being such a grouch, Corey.

😀
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 00:52:33 UTC
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That's just your read. Stop seeing me as grouchy, and
I'll stop being grouchy to you. It's all in your head. Try
Groucho instead. Old Mr. Bill always calls me Groucho
because of my big bushy eyebrows, and I love Mr. Bill.
General Zod
2019-04-16 03:52:25 UTC
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Post by Hieronymous Corey
That's just your read. Stop seeing me as grouchy, and
I'll stop being grouchy to you. It's all in your head. Try
Groucho instead. Old Mr. Bill always calls me Groucho
because of my big bushy eyebrows, and I love Mr. Bill.
I still like you Pastor Corey....
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 01:01:03 UTC
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You have a point, Pastor Corey.
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 01:04:00 UTC
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No shit, fuckmop.
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 01:07:07 UTC
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Such vile language from a man of the cloth...
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 08:21:35 UTC
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'Vile language', LOL.
General Zod
2019-04-16 08:22:45 UTC
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Post by Hieronymous Corey
'Vile language', LOL.
Good morning Pastor Corey.....

What wise words do you have for me this fine day....?
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 08:28:54 UTC
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Make your bed. Brush your teeth. Wash your ass. Don't fuck with people. Have a great day.
Michael Pendragon
2019-04-16 12:55:27 UTC
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Post by Hieronymous Corey
Make your bed. Brush your teeth. Wash your ass. Don't fuck with people. Have a great day.
Did has no bed. He sleeps on a pile of rags in a wall-less tent.

Did has no teeth. They fell out last Winter (or earlier).

Did bathes in the Chattahoochee River every morning when it's warm enough. The rest of the year, he stinks like shit.

Did has to fuck with people. At this point, it's all he's got left.
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 13:17:56 UTC
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Did you make your bed?
Did you brush your teeth?
Did you wash your ass?
Did you see what I just
Did? Did you like it? LOL.
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 19:10:46 UTC
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Obsess over General Zod much, Pendragon?

😀
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 19:12:39 UTC
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You sure are fixated on Michael today.
Coco DeSockmonkey
2019-04-16 19:17:28 UTC
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Post by Hieronymous Corey
You sure are fixated on Michael today.
He's hung up on Poe's sex life as well.
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 19:26:48 UTC
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No, we can leave the fact that Edgar Allan Poe had sex with his thirteen year old cousin to the history books if nobody here has any problems with activities such as that.
Coco DeSockmonkey
2019-04-16 19:37:12 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
No, we can leave the fact that Edgar Allan Poe had sex with his thirteen year old cousin to the history books if nobody here has any problems with activities such as that.
The history books tell a different story, Will.
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 19:51:40 UTC
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You're mistaken, Corey.

Pendragon is the one obsessed with me and General Zod.
Hieronymous Corey
2019-04-16 20:02:31 UTC
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Of course I'm mistaken. I'm always mistaken where you're concerned.
Coco DeSockmonkey
2019-04-16 20:08:07 UTC
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Post by Will Dockery
You're mistaken, Corey.
Pendragon is the one obsessed with me and General Zod.
Let's put that theory to the test:

1) You leave the group.
2) Did leaves the group.
3) We'll see if I ever mention either of you again.
Will Dockery
2019-04-16 23:18:24 UTC
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Rather when you think you are correct but ate simply confused, Corey.

:)

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