Can anybody help me about John Donne's poem "Air and Angels"?  Analyse it and give me a critical explanition of it?  Is it a metaphysical poem?If anyone could explain what metaphysical poetry is...

Can anybody help me about John Donne's poem "Air and Angels"?  Analyse it and give me a critical explanition of it?  Is it a metaphysical poem?

If anyone could explain what metaphysical poetry is it would be helpful.

What are the metaphysical characteristics in  "Air and Angels"?  What is the most famous metaphysical poem written by John Donne?

Expert Answers
sfwriter eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have answered some of these questions to another poster here on enotes, so I will append the link below.

Metaphysical poetry employs the use of long, sometimes very esoteric metaphors (usually of a theoretical or theological type) to make comparisons or parallels to the subject of the poems.  With Donne, his subject (outside of his Holy Sonnets and Sermons) is often love, as in "Air and Angels".  The exceedingly abstruse and, one might argue, medieval argument that he introduces -- the serious discussion of whether pure air is more or less pure than the purity of which angels are made -- is written for an audience which would be conversant with this kind of theologial hair-splitting.  Also, for Donne, nothing was truly conceivable outside of an understanding of God and theology, so such comparisons appeared less of a stretch to him than it would to the modern reader.  For a metaphysical poet nothing was too common or beneath notice to be compared to the divine or the philosophical structure of the universe (Donne wrote a poem called "The Flea" in which he tries to seduce his mistress by showing her that a flea has drunk blood from the both of them, thus combining their physical essences already). 

It's difficult to say what is Donne's most famous poem, but "Death be not proud" (it's title is acutually poem VI of the Holy Sonnets) is quite well-known.  In it Donne likens Death's power only to the power of sleep, or a drug-induced slumber, because death is only a short interim between life and eternal life.

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me;
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternall,
And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die.

Even though the subject of the poem is arguably the most serious a poet could address, the poet, through his extended discussion of what death is and is not, makes the reader feel comforted and light.  Death is merely the "slave" of "fate, chance, kings, and desperate men", and it comes in low company such "poison, war, and sickness".  He assures us that it is only a "short sleep".  This long metaphor, with its many explanations and variations, is an example of the best kind of metaphysical poetry. 

Read the study guide:
John Donne's Songs and Sonnets

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