T.S Eliot

essay on J.C. Grierson’s edition of Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the 17th Century

not just an essay or critique, caused revival in interest in poets like Donne

Dissociation of Sensibility and Unification of Sensibility

examine whether the so-called ‘metaphysical’ poets constituted a school or movement in themselves, or were they merely a continuation of some older tradition.

Difficulties -

  1. defining metaphysical
  2. deciding which poets are part of it and which aren’t
  3. different schools - Donne, and Courtly, Religious

Characteristics -

  1. elaboration of a simile to the farthest possible extent
  2. development of an image by rapid association of thought; unifying different pictures
  3. sharp contrasts

Dr Johnson’s defn - “the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked violence together” fusion of opposite and dissimilar concepts but happens in all poetry, TS points this out. Therefore, Dr Johnson - is wrong

So TS decided to define it via positive approach “were the direct and normal development of the precedent age”

he would show that metaphysical poetry is distinguished from other poetry by unification of sensibility, and that subsequently, dissociation of sensibility, overtook English poetry, and this was unfortunate

a unification of thought and feeling - unification of sensibility

The poets of the 18th century were intellectuals, they thought but did not feel; the romantics of the 19th century felt but did not think. Tennyson and Browning can merely reflect or ruminate

A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility

Metaphysical Sensibility enabled them to assimilate and fuse into new wholes most disparate and heterogeneous experiences. They could feel their thoughts as intensely as the odour of a rose, that is to say they could express their thoughts through sensuous imagery

Under Milton and Dryden - Language became more refine feeling became more crude

Conclusion - that they are neither quaint nor fantastic, but great and mature poets