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in literature, fanciful or unusual image in which apparently dissimilar things are shown to have a relationship. The Elizabethan poets were fond of Petrarchan conceits, which were conventional comparisons, imitated from the love songs of Petrarch, in which the beloved was compared to a flower, a garden, or the like. The device was also used by the metaphysical poetsmetaphysical poets,
name given to a group of English lyric poets of the 17th cent. The term was first used by Samuel Johnson (1744). The hallmark of their poetry is the metaphysical conceit (a figure of speech that employs unusual and paradoxical images), a reliance on
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, who fashioned conceits that were witty, complex, intellectual, and often startling, e.g., John Donne's comparison of two souls with two bullets in "The Dissolution." Samuel Johnson disapproved of such strained metaphors, declaring that in the conceit "the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together." Such modern poets as Emily Dickinson and T. S. Eliot have used conceits.


(the lesser) boastful and insolent; drowns due to vanity. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 14]
Bunthorne, Reginald
fleshly poet; “aesthetically” enchants the ladies. [Br. Lit.: Patience]
Butler, Theodosius
thinks he is a wonderful person. [Br. Lit.: Sketches by Boz]
Collins, Mr.
pompous, self-satisfied clergyman who proposes to Elizabeth Bennet. [Br. Lit.: Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice]
Dalgetty, Rittmaster Dugald
self-aggrandizing, pedantic soldier-of-fortune. [Br. Lit.: Legend of Montrose]
Dedlock, Sir Leicester
contemplates his own greatness. [Br. Lit.: Bleak House]
Dogberry and Verges
ignorant and bloated constables. [Br. Lit.: Much Ado About Nothing]
Grosvenor, Archibald
idyllic poet of no imperfections. [Br. Lit.: Patience]
Henry VIII
inflated self-image parallels bloated body. [Br. Lit.: Henry VIII]
Homer, Little Jack
pats his back with “What a good boy am I!” [Nurs. Rhyme: Mother Goose, 90]
Keefe, Jack
baseball pitcher is a chronic braggart and self-excuser suffering from an exaggerated sense of importance. [Am. Lit.: Lardner You Know Me Al in Magill III, 1159]
self-important coxcomb full of hollow, ostentatious valor. [Br. Lit.: Henry V]
Olivia’s grave, self-important steward; “an affectioned ass.” [Br. Lit.: Twelfth Night]
Montespan, Marquis de
regards exile and wife’s concubinage as honor. [Br. Opera: The Duchess of la Valliere, Brewer Hand-book, 721]
flower of conceit. [Plant Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 170; Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 171–172]
symbol of vanity and pride. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 176]
scorpion stung him to death for his boasting. [Rom. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 971]
Prigio, Prince
too clever prince; arrogance renders him unpopular. [Children’s Lit.: Prince Prigio]
Slurk, Mr.
had a “consciousness of immeasurable superiority” over others. [Br. Lit.: Pickwick Papers]
Tappertit, Simon
boasted he could subdue women with eyes. [Br. Lit.: Barnaby Rudge]


Literary an elaborate image or far-fetched comparison, esp as used by the English Metaphysical poets
References in periodicals archive ?
This binary perspective, I suggest, invites examination of the influence of Old Testament poetry and its linguistic modalities on the metaphysical conceit itself as a discursive strategy that embeds and inscribes oppositional constructs.
The metaphysical conceit of the compass and its related circle of perfection thus represent an attempt to assert agency, echoing God's dominion over the vast expanse of the universe, inscribed in the prophetic text as the ability to change topographical elements into their binary opposites--and to contain them within the heavens, which are stretched out as a tent that encompasses all.
It is this merging of oppositional elements that echoes the fusion of such binary constructs at the fundamental rhetorical level of Old Testament poetry in general, of which Isaiah 40 is a good exemplar, inviting further exploration of the influence of Old Testament poetic discourse on the development of the metaphysical conceit as linguistic strategy in Donnes canon as a whole.
John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" has been the subject of endless critical speculation regarding the sources and inspiration for its famed metaphysical conceits, symbolizing the intratextual lovers and the spiritual perfection of their love.
Isaiah 40 thus provides a relevant intertext for exploring the metaphoric resonances of Donnes "Valediction" by providing a paradigm for the consolation that the poem offers through metaphysical conceits that represent the dissolution of geographical impedziments that, under normal circumstances and as a natural consequence of events, would seemingly separate the lovers in his poem.
According to my interpretation, however, more than making opposites annul each other, the play bridges the gulf between them, in the fashion of the discordia concors the critical tradition attributes to metaphysical conceits.
Stark demonstrates that Abraham Cowley's "To the Royal Society" (1667) and Samuel Butler's Hudibras (1662-3) employ plain tropes that contrast with the metaphysical conceits of earlier poetry like George Herbert's The Temple (1633).
From Vocativo onward, Zanzotto's muse is increasingly involved in abstract thoughts, intellectual subtlety, and metaphysical conceits, often (though not always) at the expense of lyric effusiveness, as can be seen from the very titles of some of his poems: "Idea," "Impossibilita della parola," "Retorica sullo sbandamento, il principio `resistenza'," "Esautorazioni," "Misteri della pedagogia," "Subnarcosi," "Alto, altro linguaggio, fuori idioma?
Absent here are the telluric proclamations of Pablo Neruda and the metaphysical conceits of Jorge Luis Borges.
Carmi's poetic power and vast cultural background allow him the freedom to create metaphors, and sometimes metaphysical conceits, by yoking several diverse elements into one cohesive vehicle for expression.