Metaphysical conceit

What is Metaphysical conceit in literature?

Definition: A Metaphysical conceit is an extended metaphor that uses unusual and unexpected comparisons between two very different objects or ideas, often drawing on ideas from science, philosophy, or theology. It was particularly popular in the poetry of the 17th century metaphysical poets.

Example of Metaphysical conceit:

In John Donne’s poem “The Flea,” the speaker compares the act of two people coming together sexually to a flea hopping from one person’s body to another. This comparison is extended throughout the poem, with the flea representing both the speaker’s desire for the woman and their physical union:

“And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do.”

Here, Donne uses the flea as a conceit to explore the idea of sexual union, drawing on ideas of blood, sin, and purity to create a complex metaphor that connects the physical act with larger themes of desire, morality, and love.

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