Test your knowledge on the Metaphysical Poets of 17th-century England



9 Questions

What is the main characteristic of Metaphysical poetry?

Who coined the term 'Metaphysical poets'?

What was Samuel Johnson's opinion of Metaphysical poetry?

Which 20th-century writer helped to establish the importance of the Metaphysical school?

What is the main difference between Metaphysical poetry and the poetry of their antecedents?

Which poets used Platonic love as a theme in their poetry?

Which concept played an important part in the poetry of Henry Vaughan and Thomas Traherne?

Which writer emulated the Metaphysical poetic approach?

What was the impact of the Metaphysical poets on 18th-century poetry?


Metaphysical Poets: A Loose Group of 17th-Century British Lyric Poets

  • The Metaphysical poets were a loose group of 17th-century English poets whose work was characterized by the inventive use of conceits and a greater emphasis on the spoken rather than lyrical quality of their verse.

  • The term was coined by Samuel Johnson, who referred to the beginning of the 17th century as the time when "there appeared a race of writers that may be termed the metaphysical poets."

  • Johnson's assessment of "metaphysical poetry" was not at all flattering, and he was repeating the disapproval of earlier critics who upheld the rival canons of Augustan poetry.

  • T.S. Eliot did much to establish the importance of the Metaphysical school during the course of the 1920s, both through his critical writing and by applying their method in his own work.

  • There is no scholarly consensus regarding which English poets or poems fit within the Metaphysical genre.

  • The main traits of Metaphysical poetry include a break with the formerly artificial style of their antecedents to one free from poetic diction or conventions and the European Baroque influences, including the use of conceits.

  • The use of conceits was common not only across the Continent but also elsewhere in England among the Cavalier poets, including such elegists of Donne as Carew and Godolphin.

  • Wordplay on a large scale was not confined to Metaphysical poets but can be found in the multiple meanings of certain words that occur in other poets' works.

  • The Metaphysical poets were not formally affiliated, and few were highly regarded until 20th-century attention established their importance.

  • The term 'Metaphysical poets' still retains some value, as Donne's poetry had considerable influence on subsequent poets who emulated his style.

  • The term 'metaphysical' had been used by 17th-century poets in their work, meaning that Samuel Johnson's description has some foundation in the usage of the previous century.

  • There are several instances in which 17th-century poets used the word 'metaphysical' in their work, meaning that Samuel Johnson's description has some foundation in the usage of the previous century.The Metaphysical Poets: Platonic influence, Stylistic echoes, and more

  • The Metaphysical Poets used paradoxical language and imagery to explore religious and moral questions.

  • English poets used scientific discoveries to add depth and thoughtfulness to their poetry.

  • Platonic love was a theme in the poetry of Edward Herbert and Abraham Cowley.

  • Neo-Platonic concepts played an important part in the poetry of Henry Vaughan and Thomas Traherne.

  • The Metaphysical poetic approach was an available model for young writers, such as John Milton.

  • Milton's style matched his subjects, using Baroque conceits in some poems and high-spirited paradoxes in others.

  • John Dryden's early poetry used the Metaphysical style, but he later developed his own style.

  • Alexander Pope's early poetry shows interest in the Metaphysical poets, including imitations of Cowley and adaptations of Donne's satires.

  • The vogue for the Metaphysical style was over by the 18th century, but allusions to their work still struck a chord with readers.


How well do you know the Metaphysical Poets? Take this quiz to test your knowledge on the 17th-century English poets who used inventive language, scientific discoveries, and Baroque conceits to explore moral and religious questions. Learn about the influence of Platonic love and Neo-Platonic concepts in their poetry, and discover the literary legacy of John Donne, Edward Herbert, Abraham Cowley, and others. Challenge yourself with questions on their unique style and contributions to English literature.

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