Metaphysical poetry and metaphysical school of poetry

Metaphysical Poetry 

The term ‘Metaphysical’ is meaningful. In it ‘meta’ means ‘beyond’ and ‘physics’  means ‘physical nature’. In the usual sense, Metaphysical Poetry means the poetry dealing with metaphysical subjects like the nature of the universe, the movements of planets and other stars, the creation of man, his relationship to the universe, the nature of the soul, it’s function in the body and the relationship of man with God.


Features of Metaphysical Poetry

The salient features of metaphysical poetry are as follows-

Display of Learning:

Metaphysical poets were the men of learning and to show their learning was their chief object. That is why we find obscure reference in such poetry. 

Conceit and hyperbole:

Metaphysical poetry abound in conceits. These are the far-fetched comparison. They are really the instruments by the exaggeration of a situation or description. Bother of these factor are essential in metaphysical poetry. 

Dramatic Nature:

Metaphysical poetry is dramatic in Nature. In it the characters are shown conversing or arguing. They may be a listeners or other persons.

Predominance of Lyrical Quality:

Metaphysical poetry is Lyrical in nature. Metaphysical poems are mostly lyrics. 

Argumentative but Rugged Style:

Metaphysical poetry has rugged but concentrated style. It is argumentative in nature.

 Persuasion or Religious Belief:

Metaphysical poetry is religious and mystical in tone as well. References to God and Spiritual things are often made in such poetry. 

Abrupt and Colloquial Beginning:

Metaphysical poetry has Abrupt and colloquial openings. It shows the poet’s wit.

 Complexity and Obscurity:

Metaphysical poetry is essentially obscure and complex. The obscurity and complexity is mostly caused by the learning of the poets and their use of conceits and images.


Paradox which means contrast or contract items also finds expression in metaphysical poetry. Commenting on paradox, Dr. Johnson said: ‘In metaphysical poetry, heterogeneous elements are yoked with violence together’. 

Metaphysical School of Poetry

The Metaphysical School of Poetry is associated with the poetry of John Donne and a few other poets. It is Dr. Johnson who who first coined the term ‘Metaphysical Poetry’. However, it was John Dryden who had first used the term regarding John Donne. Johnson then extended it from Donne to a school of poets.  The other poets of the school are like Herbert, Vaughan, Cowley and Crawshaw.

The metaphysical school of poetry has certain characteristics. First is has delight in novel thought and expression. There is use of far-fetched images in Metaphysical Poetry, Affection and hyperbole are other important element, similarly the metaphysical school of poetry is characterised by obscurity. 

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