“The Metaphysical Poets” by T. S. Eliot
Eliot's Appreciation for Professor Grierson
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.
Metaphysical School: Are they A Digression from the Main Current, Or?
The phrase ‘Metaphysical School’ 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 times we should say a “movement”), and how far this so-called school or movement is a digression from the main current.
The Elaboration of A Figure Of Speech To The Farthest Stage Of Ingenuity
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 farthest 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.
Telescoping of Images: Brief words and Sudden Contrasts
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 “bone.” This telescoping of images and multiplied association 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.
The Most Heterogeneous Ideas Are Yoked By Violence Together
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.