John Donne: Poems

Metaphysical poets and the idea of nothingness College

'Annihilating all that's made/To a green thought in green shade.' -Marvell

'I am re-begot/of absence, darknesse, death; things which are not.' -Donne

'Nothing,' as a concept has plasticity; it can be used in a number of different ways and refer to any number of different things. Nothing can be an adjective denoting something of little value, a noun referring to nonexistence, or literally meaning 'not anything.' Whilst W. Bradford Smith asserts that metaphysical poetry is 'concerned with the analysis of experience,' surely nothingness cannot be an experience, as every experience must surely consist of something. Therefore in metaphysical poetry we must interpret 'nothing' in a broad, and perhaps not entirely literal, sense. Using John Donne and Andrew Marvell's metaphysical poetry as exemplars, this essay will outline the different kinds of nothing and nothingness that permeate their work, and the fear and frustration associated with it.

Death is a recurrent 'nothingness' throughout the works of metaphysical poets, and is the most obvious way in which this concept of 'nothing' is approached. it is John Donne who in particular has a fascination with death in his work, or as Ramie Targoff suggests, was 'gripped by a tremendous...

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