Metaphysical(s) Poets

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Metaphysical(s) Poets. Term applied by Samuel Johnson to a group of 17th-cent. Christian poets (especially J. Donne, G. Herbert, T. Traherne, H. Vaughan). He intended it as a term of dismissal, but they have come to be recognized as, collectively, one of the finest expressions of Christian poetry.

metaphysical poets

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metaphysical poets a group of 17th-century poets whose work is characterized by the use of complex and elaborate images or conceits, typically using an intellectual form of argumentation to express emotional states. Members of the group include John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, and Andrew Marvell.

The application of metaphysical to these poets is first recorded from the mid 18th century. The genesis of the specific use, however, can be found a century earlier, in a reference by William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585–1649) to ‘Metaphysicall Ideas’.