Thursday, 21 January 2016

Metaphysical - metaphorically speaking.

I think I need to offer a little explanation of my dilemma this week, dear reader.  Every three months or so, the Dead Good bloggers are asked to contribute themes for the blog and these are then compiled into a list of weekly prompts to inspire the writer.  I tend to just look at the theme for the week a few days before. Oops!  What a mistake that was this week.  The theme is 'Let's get metaphysical' and I have a confession to make... until I looked it up in the dictionary today, I didn't have a clue what 'metaphysical' meant.

Now far be it from me to cast aspersions but perhaps some of you don't know either, so lets start with a definition from the OED. 

metaphysics /noun/  the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of existence, truth and knowledge. 

So that's as clear as mud but at least my own knowledge tells me that metaphysical is an adjective.  So what can else can I discover? Ah - apparently there were a group of poets, all writing in 17th century England, who were dubbed - wait for it ...metaphysical poets. They explored the nature of the world and human life using imagery that was deemed 'surprising' at that time.  These poets were John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell and Richard Crashaw. I hate to admit that I have not read any of their work.

I tried a short cut.  Apparently, esteem for Metaphysical poetry never stood higher than in the 1930s and ’40s, largely because of T.S. Eliot’s influential essay “The Metaphysical Poets” (1921), a review of Herbert J.C. Grierson’s anthology Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the Seventeenth Century. This is a very influential essay, especially if you are interested in either metaphysical poetry or 20th century literary criticism.  It seems that in Elliot's view, these poets wrote with 'wit' and 'metaphysical conceit'.

And so I had to check and guess what? In literature, a conceit is 'an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem'.  By juxtaposing, usurping and manipulating images and ideas in surprising ways, a conceit invites the reader into a more sophisticated understanding of an object of comparison.

At last - I am getting somewhere. I do know what an extended metaphor looks like and I know that in poetry, like the grape and the grain, they are better not mixed. I also know what an extended metaphor feels like. Try this one on for size.

Lost Glove,  

I lost a glove today my love,
of deepest purple hue:
A favoured and most treasured part
of something almost new.
No comfort in its warmth to put
a smile upon my lips:
To keep the bitter wind from biting
at my fingertips.

I ventured out and checked my steps
in vain attempt to trace
the other half: Unite the pair,
to fill the gaping space.
The single sits and pleads to me,
Its calling ever sweet.
Solitary: Separate:
A glory incomplete.
No mate will ever touch its palm,
caress it tenderly.
No one will hold its hand or
link its fingers lovingly.
For solo it will stay.
A sad and fading memory,
Abandoned and apart.
And grieving desperately.  
Thanks for reading. Adele



Lady Curt said... too, had to look it up. Interesting about the poets. I took it meaning using some other parallel to explain a situation. short ? Yes you achieved it there. I just didn't have time this week...that movie I saw in the afternoon threw me off on Tuesday evening!

Adele said...

We went to see the same movie during the snowstorm. There was a blizzard on the screen and we didn't take off our coats - ha ha!

Steve Rowland said...

A most succinct introduction to the world of the metaphysical poets and entertainingly written.

The poem is very sad despite the lightness of tone and meter.

Thank you Adele.