Mourning the death of a good friend in 1631, the poet Thomas Carew declared:
“The Muses' garden, with pedantic weeds
O'erspread, was purg'd by thee; the lazy seeds
Of servile imitation thrown away,
And fresh invention planted.”
The gardener in question was a poet, John Donne, and from his fresh invention blossomed a group of 17th century writers called the metaphysical poets. Concerned with sex and death, with science and empire, the metaphysical poets challenged the conventions of Elizabethan poetry with drama and with wit. And they showed that English, like Italian and French, was capable of true poetry.
But what do we mean by metaphysical poetry, how did it reflect an age of drama and discovery and do poets as different as John Donne, Andrew Marvell and George Herbert really belong together in the canon of English literature?
Download the podcast from BBC- The Metaphysical Poets