DONNE is famous for his imaginative flights from the material to the spiritual spheres for which DRYDEN gave him the title of "metaphysical". Discuss?answer in detail

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susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Actually, it was Samuel Johnson who coined the phrase "metaphysical" in reference to John Donne's poetry.  Dryden used the word "metaphysics" to describe, what he thought, Donne's over-intellectual verse.  Dryden criticized Donne's use of philosophy and reason regarding matters of the heart.

Indeed, Donne's poetry is highly intellectual.  Take his most eloquent "The Good-Morrow," for instance.  In this poem, a conceit comparing the newfound love that the two lovers share to an awakening of two souls governs the entire poem.  In this poem, Donne uses allusions to Christian legend ("seven sleepers' den"), Plato's allegory of the cave ("If ever any beauty I did see,/Which I desried, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee), cardiography ("sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone") and alchemy ("whatever dies was not mixed equally").

Even the position of the two lovers looking into each other's eyes becomes a metaphor for the unity of their souls, as each can see his or her reflection in the eyes of the other.  Time plays an important role in the poem as well as the stanzas are arranged to describe the past before the two lovers met, the present as their love becomes all encompassing, and the future in which their love can last forever.

Certainly this poetry is not gushing or emotive.  Love is expressed imaginatively through scholarly allusions, clever comparisons, and carefully crafted structure.  Through these means, love is shown to transcend the earthly and the mortal in a perfect union of two souls.