Though it is a sin to compare these two groups of poets, yet, there are some exceptional scholars who can protract any argument or extradite any hypothesis in literature to the degree of their pleasure. Such scholars construe the poetry by Indian poets such as Aurobindo and Tagore to be at the same dice that of the Metaphysical poets like Donne, Herbert and Vaughan. Although the comparison is far-fetched and elusive, I know a few scholars who have dared to venture in the barren land with the hope of making it the bed of roses.
The Tiger and The Deer is a poem by Sri Aurobindo, and this poem tells of an ideal scenario where people from different status of the society and different sections can come together and enjoy true freedom that knows no boundaries. In Aurobindo’s oeuvre, one can find many poems that celebrate the journey of soul, looking inwards and emphasis on insight, celebrating the values and ethos that Indian civilisation and ages-long culture contains… Hindu philosophy and Sanatan Darshan are also there on many occasions, in abundance, to be precise. However, the question is, where can we find the equivalent of the same in Metaphysical poetry? One will have to scratch his head many times if someone brings some equivalent and tries to demonstrate the similarities.
In the poems of John Donne, we mostly find celebration of love that goes beyond the conventional approach to beauty – singing praises for the rosy chicks of one’s beloved or devoting 20,000 years to celebrating each breast. Everything is extreme – hyperboles that might seem comic in the first read – a tear drop is made identical with the globe, deluge occurring from the constant weeping of a person, looking for the map of the world on one’s body, chiding and scolding the Sun because it disturbs the process of love making that involves the poet and his beloved (John Donne).
Celebration of love in the metaphysical poets and that in the poets of India are entirely different. Two distant poles that can never be equated by anyone who has ever studied English literature carefully, attentively and seriously. Aurobindo and Naidu, though distinct in their approach to love, celebrate love by taking it to the heights of spirituality that is prevalent in the Indian civilisation for eons. They merge love with the love for divine, Aurobindo keeps it open and Naidu merges it with love for Krishna in many of her poems. Tagore ventures into the world of universalism and brotherhood that extends geographical and otherwise boundaries. Donne limits all his expressions to the celebration of worldly love in an out-worldly manner. He takes the ordinary to the extreme and there is seldom any apparent spiritual contexts to his poetry unless you come from a very elusive circumference of thoughts.
In Herbert, there is religion. And that’s apparent. In Hinduism, even if we consider it as a religion in the strict sense, we cannot limit it for a certain section of individuals who believe in Hindu identity. That is lacking in the poetry of Herbert. He sings for Christ, celebrates his life and mourns his death. He discusses redemption for those who believe in the ‘father’ and his ‘son’.
There can be many arguments that can be extended to prove the point that no comparison is possible between Indian spiritual English poets and Metaphysical poets by any far-fetched notion. If you try to do it, it will only be a literary crime and nothing else.