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Three Metaphysical Motets

By Z. Randall Stroope

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SATB choir a cappella (SATB choir a cappella)
Composed by Z. Randall Stroope. Octavo. Alliance Music Publications #AMP 0865. Published by Alliance Music Publications (AN.AMP-0865).

Item Number: AN.AMP-0865


Perspective on the three...

London poet John Donne (1572-1631) established the Metaphysical Style of poetry, penning such lines as No man is an island entire of itself . . . And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. This style was later adopted by George Herbert (1593-1633), Henry Vaughan (1622-1695), and several other writers of the day. Donne's poetry (among other things) is characterized by abrupt openings and almost shocking dramatic shifts (such as in At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners), occasional terse syntax, metaphors from all spheres of life, and the presentation of a logical and persuasive argument about religion or some aspect of British nobility. This style of delivery was in direct opposition to the smooth elegance of the Elizabethan poetry of his day.

George Herbert followed Donne's lead but maintained a unique perspective on the Metaphysical Style. He draws metaphors from everyday domestic experience, unlike the more sophisticated imagery of Donne. Herbert also introduced the idea of ending a poem with two quiet lines that add a unique twist or perspective on the poem (such as in yThe Collary). Herbert dedicated his poetry output to God and the struggles that humankind has with the whole idea of faith and believing in the unknown. The Collar is about just such a struggle. Unlike the very narrow readership (nobility) of Donne, Herbert's poetry was written for the masses.

Welsh poet Henry Vaughan was a Renaissance man of varied interests, including law, medicine, military service, and poetry. The writing of George Herbert served as a Vaughan's greatest influence, including his faith conversion later in life. In fact, Vaughan's poetry is often criticized because of its perceived duplication of Herbert's style. Vaughan's uniqueness, however, lies in his more mystical themes such as communion with the dead, eternity (I Saw Eternity the Other Night), nature, and images of childhood. He was attracted to the unfamiliar, remote, and fantastic notions that are popular even in 21st century film and other media.

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