Metaphysical poems for the new millennium – part 1

The metaphysical poets were a group of 17th century poets who, although not a part of a movement in itself, shared particular characteristics.

In short, their style was philosophical, intelligent, logical, hyperbolic, critical, sometimes caustic and often funny, and they were not afraid to clearly express their opinions.

When I first discovered these extraordinary poets I was shocked by their wit and wickedness. So much so I thought I’d rewrite three of their more well known poems using a contemporary pen.

In part 1, I have given John Donne’s poem Song my new millennium makeover, be cause quite frankly, it needs it.

John Donne by Isaac Oliver

Contained in Donne’s, Song is not only the great metaphysical poet’s wit, it also contains great misogyny.

My makeover, Spin, has been written to redress that injustice, in some small way, while still being a tip of the hat to the cleverness and humour of the original poem, albeit crass for today.

Song tells, using hyperbole, that although someone may be able to do impossible things, the one thing they cannot do is find, “a woman true, and faire.”

It then goes on to say that if such a woman could be found, even next door to him, that she would be false before they could meet.

In its time Song must have sounded like a very clever joke.

I have written Spin, using the same rhyming pattern of the original poem, but have replaced the woman with a male politician.

It uses the same argument to make its point, that being you might be able to achieve impossible things, but you won’t be able to find an honest politician. Yet, if one could be found, and you could shake his hand, he would lie before you could release it.

So, here it is, My spin on John Donne’s Song.


Go, find an untarnished shore,

Find me an ocean without pollution,

Tell me a rich man, that wants no-more,

Or point the black man without persecution,

Teach every heart, the heart of compassion,

And banish death’s certain companion,

            And tend

            To mend

A child’s life, beyond its end.

If you have seen all possible things,

And all impossible feats,

Board a flight and search, what impossible brings,

Till youth and vigour retreats,

Return and find me here to expound,

What amazing things your travels have found,

            And yet

            I bet

No honest politician you met.

But if you find one, honest and good,

And to my electorate he defends,

But no, no effort I’d make or could,

If before me his hand extends,

And as you vouchsafe, his truth anew,

As I reached for his hand on cue,

A lie,

Would fly,

Before my hand, from his I could pry.

(Copyright Andrew James Macleod 2020)

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