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Previous article Next article. Related articles. Share this page. Register Already have an account? Such evaluations totally depend on the context, the understanding of the reader, and the time it is being read. In fact, if a conceit or thought become a dead metaphor , it will lose all its magic and wit; and this factor is also dependant on the time and era in which it is read.
We should keep in mind that metaphysical poetry was a reaction against the deliberately smooth and sweet tones of much 16th-century verse, a courageous act even against the literary canon of their own time. And that is why the metaphysical poets adopted a style that seems so energetic, uneven, and rigorous and much appealing to the fed up 20 th century reader. The Metaphysicals were out of critical favor for the 18 th and 19 th centuries. At the end of the 19 th century and in the beginning of the 20 th century, interest in this group picked up, and especially important was T.
It is in fact Grierson who discovers the treasure hidden in their poetry, and having compared them with all other masterpieces of literature , he concludes that metaphysical poetry. Grierson also uses the term Metaphysical to refer to the Scholastic and philosophic aspects of the terminology. Nevertheless, this feature finds quite positive connotations in his usage, as giving depth and richness to the language and strength of thought. Eliot, quite under the influence of Grierson, gave value to this kind of poetry as celebrating association of sensibility , that was actually a restatement of that old Johnsonian discordia concors but with a different positive connotation as poetic ideal, and that made all the difference.
Eliot begins his article with a very good question quite untouched by the kind of abuse which has long shadowed the name and work of the metaphysical poets:.
wisdom,humor and faith
He later elaborates more on the term and comes up with a definition of associated sensibility. Eliot writes of Donne quite admiringly that. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility. 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; in the mind of the poet these experiences are always forming new wholes. This amount of concentration and juxtaposition of discordant images is what T.
Eliot as a man of 20 th -century alienations and fragmentations would ideally admire — a consciousness of the fact that the life itself is a great paradox and inherently paradoxical; it is this paradox that manifests itself in the poetry of the Metaphysicals and can finally mingle thought and sense. This realization is of course not appealing to the taste of the Neoclassics — who still enjoyed the illusion of a harmonious world of accords. His strategy is a clever and well-planned one. In fact, Eliot claims that he is going to define the Metaphysical poets by their very failures previously shown by Johnson, and manages to transform them to a distinguished concept of paradoxical unity.
Somewhere is the article Eliot writes,. Having left the Johnsonian canon in peace, Eliot manages to skip the danger of totally rejecting his pragmatic and still-perfect touchstones while cautiously developing his own point of discussion by giving depth and insight to the long ignored value of discordia concors. Metaphysical Poetry Today. Interest peaked after Eliot with the New Critics School around mid-century, though it declined afterwards. Years after the decline of the New Critics, with the emergence of a newer voice of Deconstructionism — pioneered by Derrida — interest in Metaphysical Poetry tempered off a bit.
The deconstructionists no more believed in the old-fashioned stuff of both Johnson and Eliot; their new literary canon triumphed in questioning the tyranny of language as well as its free play of signs which fails to mean what it struggles to mean. Based on the new waves of critical theory there could be no essential superiority in a text over the other; all texts make but a deferred process of signification which fail to provide an essential truth about the world.
Critical Appreciation Of T. S. Eliot 's The Metaphysical | Bartleby
Enslaved in numerous discourses and signification systems, the more they try to give us an illusion of unity and harmony the more paradoxical and vulnerable they become. Thus there might be no essential difference or superiority between the text of Metaphycals and any other text. Nevertheless, Donne and Herbert seem to have survived the critical whirlwind and are still studied from newer perspectives: their texts have proved to be ideal of deconstructive analysis due to the kind of premature consciousness they show towards language and various discourses they apply.
In a conclusion, I should remark that there is necessarily no question of wrongs and rights, or failures or success — as being debated by Johnson and Eliot and over ages — about Metaphysical poetry. Thanks to the deconstructive theories of Derrida, I find no more distinction between these binary oppositions and the text itself has rightly proved to be an amalgam of everything in the universe from spirit to matter and from nature to culture.
As explained before, the critical canon of the day can find any kind of text worth studying and therefore the Metaphysicals do not gain any superiority even over the meanest nursery rime. Though still fascinating and surprising, the contemporary reader is not much shocked — if not bored — with the metaphysical conceits. Abrams, M. A Glossary of Literary Terms , sixth edition.
Connor, Marguerite. Metaphysical Poetry. Cuddon, J. Penguin Books, Eliot, T. Grierson, Herbert. Johnson, Samuel. Ousby, Ian. There was another effect of the influence of Milton and Dryden, an effect which was indirect and which manifested itself at a later date.
Early in the 18th century there was a reaction against the intellectual and ratiocinative given to reasoning and argumentation poetry of the pseudo-classics. The pendulum swung to the other extreme, and the poets thought and felt by fits and starts. They lacked balance and they reflected. But Shelley and Keats died young, and their successors, Tennyson and Browning, could only reflect.
They mediated upon their experiences poetically, but failed to turn them into poetry. The Metaphysical poets certainly had their faults. But they had one great virtue. They tried, and often succeeded in expressing their states of mind and feeling in appropriate words and imagery. They were, therefore, more mature and better than later poets. The Modern Age: Its Metaphysical Temper Eliot then proceeds to examine the close similarity between the age of Donne and the modern age, and the consequent similarity between the sensibility of the Metaphysicals and the modern poets.
The Metaphysicals are difficult and the poet in the modern age is also bound to be difficult. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate, if necessary, language into his meaning. Like them the modern poet also transmutes into sensations, and transforms feelings into thought or states of mind.
In other words, Donne and the other Metaphysicals are in the direct current of English poetry, and the modern poets are their direct descendants. This current flows direct from the Elizabethan age right upto the modern age. Only, and unfortunately, this continuity was broken for some time under the influence of Milton and Dryden who are great masters of language, but not of the soul. Only such a poetry would be complete; but it would be complex and difficult.
The Metaphysicals, as well as the moderns, have this complexity, and also this completeness and maturity. Eliot has thrown new light on the metaphysical poets, and shown that they are neither quaint nor fantastic, but great and mature poets. They do not represent a digression from the mainstream of English poetry, but rather a continuation of it. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email.
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