Metaphysical poetry contains compacted meanings in few words or lines. If you attempt to summarize it, you will have long description of it. The beauty of poetry lies in its strangeness. It is a reaction against the Elizabethan poetry (but not the clear cut break). Elizabethan poetry is simple and sensuous whereas Metaphysical poetry is direct and economic. The task of the Elizabethan poetry is to impose form and order on expression through the emotion and reason whereas in Metaphysical poetry the concentration is on realistic force based on introspection. What the common between the two is the involvement with wit, rhetoric, argumentation and artifice.
The Church of England was new religion. It believed in learning, disclaimed dogmas and tolerance – believed in individual faith. It blurred the boundary between Roman Catholic and Church of England, and we find the rise of Puritanism. As church worked against the Roman Catholic, in the same way Metaphysical poetry worked against Elizabethan poetry. The new religious ethos was marked by skepticism, introspection, self-consciousness and self criticism are the characteristics of the Metaphysical poetry as well.
According to T.S. Eliot, Metaphysical poets turn thoughts into feeling – sensuous apprehension of thoughts. ‘Meta’ means beyond and ‘physics’ means sensuous (going beyond the sensuous or realm of mind).As we note in Samuel Johnson’s Life of Cowley: These poet’s wit as “metaphysical” – means a heterogeneous yoking together of ideas by violence.
According to H. Gragson: The poetry is metaphysical not by virtue of scholasticism but by a deep reflection in stressed in the experience of which that poetry is the expression, the new psychological curiosity with which they write of love and religion.
The metaphysical temper goes beyond the 19th century and pervades some of the best poetry written since: the odes of Keats, the narrative poetry of Wordsworth, the ballads of Coleridge and the poems of Hopkins, Stevens and Dylan Thomas and recently the symbolists and Surrealists.
Dryden and Dr. Johnson called Donne a “metaphysical” poet because of his study of scholastic philosophy and his habit to yoke ideas, Donne’s verse was being admired and imitated by wits, lawyers and diplomats.