Characteristics of Metaphysical poetry

The metaphysical poets used similar styles of writing, allowing us to define what metaphysical poetry actually is. The metaphysical conceits or the “wit” that they use is a common factor. It includes the violent juxtaposition of unconnected ideas that forces the reader to think and understand the relation. Donne’s comparison of love being canonized is one such example of the usage of “wit”.  This is materialized in the form of literary devices like metaphors, similes, paradox, irony and obliquity.

Paradox serves as a literary device that assists the poet to not only express their emotions, but also analyze the contradictory ideas. Metaphysical poets, therefore, overuse this example of literary composition. Irony is also a major element that is combined with paradox. While irony is within the poem, paradox explores the structure and meaning of the poem and is therefore inclusive of irony. (Wikipedia, Paradox) Irony is characterized by contrast and includes figures of speeches like “double entendre” etc.

Obliquity basically means “to morally or mentally deviate”. The concept of obliquity can be applied to metaphysical poetry because it explores moral ideas, but deviates from the obvious perceptions about those ideas. In “The Collar”, Herbert shocks the readers by revealing the apparent true nature of a priest or God man. This distorts the perception that priests are devoted to God selflessly.

Casuistry essentially means logical reasoning used to understand and resolve moral problems. While applying this principle, the theoretical reasoning of one instance can be used for another instance. Metaphysical poets use this because of its evasive quality. Many questions and arguments brought up by the poets are unanswered to the poets themselves, and thus, they look to evasive reasoning.

Neoplatonism is a school of thought that emerged in the 17th century that heavily influenced the metaphysical poets, especially when love is being explored. One of the main concepts adopted from this school of thought used by the metaphysical poets is that the perfection of beauty in the beloved is what reminds the poet that beauty is eternal.