Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Metaphysical Poets Donne


Metaphysical Poets
Introduction
In the early Stuart period the failure of consensus was dramatically demonstrated within the political collapse of the 1640s and within the growing sociocultural divergences of the immediately preceding years. While it had been still possible for the theatres to deal with the state considerably as one audience, the court—with the Baroque style, derived from the Continent, that it encouraged in painting, masque, and panegyric—was becoming more remote from the country at large and was regarded with increasing distrust. In fact, a growing separation between polite and vulgar literature was to dispel many of the characteristic strengths of Elizabethan writing. Simultaneously, long-term intellectual changes were starting to hit the status of poetry and prose.


Sidney’s defense of poetry, which maintained that poetry depicted what was ideally instead of actually true, was rendered redundant by the loss of agreement over transcendent absolutes; the scientist, the Puritan together with his Inner Light , and therefore the skeptic differed equally over the standards by which truth was to be established. From the circle of Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, at Great Tew in Oxfordshire—which included poets like Edmund Waller, Carew , and Sidney Godolphin—William Chillingworth argued that it had been unreasonable for a person to force his opinions onto the other , while Hobbes reached the other conclusion (in his Leviathan, 1651) that each one must be because the state pleases. during this context, the old idea of poetry as a persuader to virtue fell obsolete, and therefore the century as an entire witnessed a huge transfer of energy into new literary forms, particularly into the rationally balanced couplet, the autobiography, and therefore the embryonic novel. At an equivalent time, these influences were neither uniform nor consistent; Hobbes might repudiate the utilization of metaphor as senseless and ambiguous, yet his own prose was frequently enlivened by half-submerged metaphors.

The Metaphysical poets
Writers skilled these conditions in several ways, and in poetry three main traditions may broadly be distinguished, which are including the names of Spenser, Jonson, and Donne . Donne heads the tradition that 18th-century critic Johnson labeled for all time because the Metaphysicals; what unites these poets as a gaggle is a smaller amount the violent yoking of unlike ideas to which Johnson objected than that they were all poets of private and individual feeling, responding to their time’s pressures privately or introspectively. This privateness, of course, wasn't new, but the amount generally experienced an enormous upsurge of contemplative or devotional verse.

Donne
Donne has been taken to be the apex of the 16th-century tradition of plain poetry, and positively the love lyrics of his that parade their cynicism, indifference, and libertinism pointedly invert and parody the conventions of Petrarchan lyric, though he courts admiration for his poetic virtuosity no but the Petrarchans. A “great haunter of plays” in his youth, he's always dramatic; his verse cultivates “strong lines,” dissonance, and colloquiality. Carew praised him for avoiding poetic myths and excluding from his verse the “train of gods and goddesses”; what fills it instead may be a dazzling battery of language and argument drawn from science, law and trade, court and city.
Donne is that the first London poet: his early satires and elegies are full of the busy metropolitan milieu, and his songs and sonnets, which include his best writing, with their kaleidoscope of contradictory attitudes, ironies, and contingencies, explore the alienation and ennui of urban living. Donne treats experience as relative, a matter of individual point of view; the personality is multiple, quizzical, and inconsistent, eluding definition. His love poetry is that of the frustrated careerist.
By inverting normal perspectives and making the mistress the centre of his being—he boasts that she is “all states, and every one princes, I, nothing else is”—he belittles the general public world, defiantly asserting the superior validity of his private experience, and regularly he erodes the normal dichotomy of body and soul, outrageously praising the mistress in language reserved for platonic or religious contexts. The defiance is complicated, however, by a recurrent conviction of private unworthiness that culminates within the Anniversaries (1611–12), two long commemorative poems written on the death of a patron’s daughter. These expand into the classic statement of Jacobean melancholy, an intense meditation on the vanity of the planet and therefore the collapse of traditional certainties. Donne would, reluctantly, find respectability during a church career, but even his religious poems are torn between an equivalent tense self-assertion and self-abasement that mark his secular poetry.

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Donne’s influence
Donne’s influence was vast; the taste for wit and conceits reemerged in dozens of minor lyricists, among them courtiers like Aurelian Townshend and William Habington, academics like William Cartwright, and non secular poets like Francis Quarles and Henry King. the sole true Metaphysical, within the sense of a poet with genuinely philosophical pretensions, was Edward Herbert (Lord Herbert of Cherbury), important as an early proponent of faith formulated by the sunshine of reason.


Donne’s most enduring followers were the three major religious poets George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, and Henry Vaughan. Herbert, a Cambridge academic who buried his courtly ambitions within the quiet lifetime of a rustic parsonage, wrote a number of the foremost resonant and attractive religious verse within the language. Though not barren of tension, his poems substitute for Donne’s tortured selfhood a humane, meditative assurance. They evoke a practical piety and a richly domestic world, but they dignify it with a musicality and a sense for the sweetness of holiness that bespeak Herbert’s identification with the nascent Anglican Church of Archbishop William Laud. against this , the poems of Crashaw (a Roman Catholic) and therefore the Welsh recluse Vaughan move in alternative traditions: the previous toward the sensuous ecstasies and effusions of the Continental Baroque, the latter toward hermetic naturalism and mystical raptures.

However, within the context of the Civil Wars, Vaughan’s and Crashaw’s introspection began to seem like retreat, and, when the satires of John Cleveland and therefore the lyrics of Abraham Cowley took the Donne manner to extremes of paradox and vehemence, it had been diagnostic a loss of control within the face of political and social traumas.
The one poet for whom metaphysical wit became a technique for holding together conflicting allegiances was Donne’s outstanding heir, Marvell.
Marvell’s writing is taut, extraordinarily dense and precise, uniquely combining a cavalier lyric grace with Puritanical economy of statement. His finest work seems to possess been done at the time of greatest strain, in about 1650–53, and under the patronage of Sir Thomas Fairfax, parliamentarian general but opponent of King Charles I’s execution, to whose retirement from politics to his country estate Marvell accorded qualified praise in “Upon Appleton House.”
His lyrics are poems of the divided mind, sensitive to all or any the main conflicts of their society—body against soul, action against retirement, experience against innocence, Cromwell against the king—but Marvell sustains the conflict of irreconcilables through paradox and wit instead of attempting to make a decision or transcend it. during this situation, irresolution has become a strength; during a poem like “An Horatian ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland,” which weighs the claims of King Charles and Cromwell, the poet’s reserve was the sole effective way of confronting the unprecedented demise of traditional structures of politics and morality.

Jonson and therefore the Cavalier poets
The Jonsonian tradition was, broadly, that of social verse, written with a Classical clarity and weight and deeply informed by ideals of civilized reasonableness, ceremonious respect, and inner self-sufficiency derived from Seneca; it's a poetry of publicly shared values and norms. Jonson’s own verse was occasional; it addresses other individuals, distributes praise and blame, and promulgates sober and judicious ethical attitudes. His favoured forms were the ode, elegy, satire, epistle, and epigram, and that they are always beautifully crafted objects, achieving a Classical symmetry and monumentality. For Jonson, the unornamented style meant not colloquiality but labour, restraint, and control; an honest poet had first to be an honest man, and his verses lead his society toward an ethic of gracious but responsible living.
With the Cavalier poets who succeeded Jonson, the element of urbanity and conviviality attended loom larger. Herrick was perhaps England’s first poet to precise impatience with the tediousness of country life. However, Herrick’s “The Country Life” and “The Hock Cart” rival Jonson’s “To Penshurst” as panegyrics to the Horatian ideal of the “good life,” calm and retired, but Herrick’s poems gain retrospective poignancy by their implied contrast with the disruptions of the Civil Wars.
The courtiers Carew, Sir John Suckling, and Lovelace developed a fashion of ease and naturalness suitable to the planet of gentlemanly pleasure during which they moved; Suckling’s A Session of the Poets (1637; published 1646) lists quite 20 wits then in town.
The Cavalier poets were writing England’s first vers de société, lyrics of compliments and casual liaisons, often cynical, occasionally obscene; this was a line to be picked up again after 1660, as were the heroic meter and attitudinizing drama of Jonson’s successor as Poet Laureate , Sir William Davenant. a special contribution was the elegance and smoothness that came to be related to Sir John Denham and Edmund Waller, whom the poet Dryden named because the first exponents of “good writing.”


Waller’s inoffensive lyrics are the epitome of polite taste, and Denham’s topographical poem “Cooper’s Hill” (1641), a big add its title , is a crucial precursor of the balanced Augustan couplet (as is that the otherwise slight oeuvre of Viscount Falkland). the expansion of Augustan gentility was further encouraged by work done on translations in mid-century, particularly by Sir Richard Fanshawe and Thomas Stanley.

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