John Donne is the first poet that scholars identify with the English Metaphysical School, even though this was not an official group during Donne's lifetime but rather, poets who adopted a style similar to Donne's. In his 1693 essay on satire, English poet and critic John Dryden argued that Donne’s poetry makes absurd and overly elaborate use of philosophical and metaphysical concepts to describe love. Dryden felt that Donne and other poets of his time were guilty of over- intellectualizing love, and claimed that they would be better served by using more emotionally grounded metaphors.
Later, in 1779, Dr. Samuel Johnson coined the phrase “metaphysical poets” to identify Donne and his contemporaries, including Andrew Marvell. Like Dryden, Johnson faulted these poets for their unruly versification, metaphoric distortions, and overly elaborate conceits. However, as time went on, contemporary critics like T.S. Eliot started to recognize and value the metaphysicals' work, praising its anti-Romantic and intellectual qualities. The metaphysical style generally contains irregular versification, images of extreme emotion and outlandish bodily comportment, the use of paradox, and elaborate metaphors that sometimes extend for the entirety of a single poem. The list of English poets identified as “metaphysicals” includes John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Henry Vaughan, and Andrew Marvell.