John Donne is called metaphysical poet as his poetry reveals all the characteristics that we generally associate with metaphysical poetry. John Donne is the leading poet of metaphysical poetry. He is metaphysical in the following sense:
1. He is metaphysical because his poetry is replete with conceits. Conceit is a prominent feature of metaphysical poetry. Conceit is a far-fetched comparison between dissimilar things. John Donne has employed conceits in his poetry in abundance. In A Valediction, Forbidding Mourning, he compares his wife and himself to the two legs of a compass.
2. Imagery is another characteristic of metaphysical poetry. John Donne has employed imagery in his poetry to a great extent. He uses concrete imagery instead of abstract imagery. His imagery has been derived from philosophy, science, religion, navigation, alchemy etc.
3. Wit is a hallmark of metaphysical poetry. John Donne is called the monarch of wit. Dryden says: “If we are not so great wits as Donne, we are certainly better poets. The wit of Donne stands in a class by itself.
4. Metaphysical poetry is epigrammatic. John Donne is also epigrammatic in his poetry. His poetry abounds in epigrams. Many of his sentences have assumed proverbial status.
5. Parade of learning is the main concern of metaphysical poets. All the metaphysical poets were men of learning. John Donne also displays his deep learning in science, astronomy, astrology, religion etc.
6. Metaphysical poets tend to use harsh, coarse and jerky words in their diction. John Donne also could not remain free from the use of such words. Sometimes, the rhyme scheme in his poetry becomes too much monotonous.
7. Metaphysical poetry is obscure and difficult to understand. It requires deep attention on the part of reader to get to the crux of the matter. Otherwise it is elusive and complex. John Donne’s poetry is also of the same nature. His poem Extasie is ambiguous and hard to grasp the meaning of it.
8. Metaphysical poetry is philosophical. It expounds some philosophy. John Donne is also philosophical in his poetry. Most of his poetry is a discourse about a unique idea.
9. Originality is an important trait of metaphysical poetry. Metaphysical poets present truly new ideas in their poetry. John Donne’s poetry is a paragon of such new ideas in the history of English literature.