Write a short note on Donne’s use of conceits in his love poems


Metaphysical conceit is a literary device. The poet used this device for making his poetry unique and extra-ordinary. According to the Oxford Dictionary,” Metaphysical conceit is a fanciful and unusual image in which apparently dissimilar things are shown to have a relationship”. In other words, Conceit is a far-fetched and extended comparison between two dissimilar things. According to Dr. Johnson (1709-1784) “A conceit is the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together”

More Notes: John Donne

History of Metaphysical Conceit:

The term conceit first came to prominence in the 14th and 15th centuries in Renaissance literature. At that time the English poet used to write the Petrarchan sonnet of the 14th lines. During that time conceit was used only as an elaborate and extended metaphor. Later, In the 17th century, a school of poets known as the metaphysical school of poets such as John

Donne (1572-1631), Henry Vaughan (1621- 1695), Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), and so on used to apply this literary device. John Donne who is the pioneer of the metaphysical school of poetry has popularised this term in the field of poetry.

Features of Metaphysical conceit:

Metaphysical conceit stands for a device of literature that is used by the metaphysical school of poets in the 17th century possesses some traits by which we can evaluate it as metaphysical conceit.

Extended Metaphor:

The literary device metaphysical conceit consists of an extended metaphor. It differentiates between two dissimilar things. John Donne (1572-1631) is the great master of using metaphysical conceit in his poetry. In his famous poem “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” here, he has used metaphysical conceit. In this poem he has compared the compass with lovers’ two souls, the center foot is beloved, and the other foot is the lover who is bound back to his beloved.

“If they be two, they are two so,

As stiff twin compasses are two

Thy soul the fixed foot, makes no show,

To move, but doth, if th’ other do….”

Figurative language:

The poet used figurative language to apply metaphysical conceit. If we evaluate Donne’s poetry, we find that he has used figurative language in his poetry.


To sum up, we must say that John Donne is the demigod to use the metaphysical conceit because his illustration of love for his beloved is starkly based on conceit.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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