In 17th century Britain, a band of poets called the ‘Metaphysical Poets’ arose, who used a figure of speech called the ‘Metaphysical Conceit’. The metaphysical conceit is a very intellectual device. It is an extended metaphor by comparing two ideas that are unrelated, in a very startling, unexpected way. It involves connecting two images that you would never expect to relate together. Andrew Marvell, John Donne, George Herbert and Richard Crashaw are a few of many such metaphysical poets. An example of metaphysical conceit can be seen in George Herbert’s ‘Praise (III),’ where the generosity of God is compared to a bottle, which will take in an infinite amount of the speaker’s tears. This bottle is also compared to ‘boxes for the poor’. In short, Metaphysical conceit is an extended metaphor where comparison is taken to the next level – a glorified, exaggerated level.
Today, we can find a lot of creative uses of the ‘metaphysical conceit’. Specific to our very own CCM Industry, we see Josh Wilson who tries to fit the entirety of God within a three-minute song! Naturally, he realizes the futility of such an attempt. In his own words, he compares this effort to ‘trying to fit the ocean in a cup.’ Wow! This phrase goes on to become the title of his album. Josh Wilson says that it’s easy to have a million metaphors, however, it would still be impossible to sum up and define the fullness of God. This is an extremely creative use of the metaphysical conceit today. ‘3 Minute Song’ is an amazing portrayal of the vastness and fullness of a wonderful, great God. The song is complex in its simplicity and speaks tons through a small three-minute song. Wilson’s subtle sense of humor is clearly visible and is effortlessly seamed through the entire song. The brevity, music, beats and of course, the incredible vocals, engage the attention of the listener, encouraging anyone to listen to the song more than twice. The concept brought in is unique and one-of-a-kind, so are the chords and musical level of the song.
[This YouTube video has been uploaded by DUDEEitsAYANA]
The Afters, in their song ‘The Way You Are’ brings in a whole lot of radical comparisons. It talks about the Salvation experience, when Christ steps into the life of a new believer. The song tries to portray the wildness in imagery of a great, mighty God entering the soul of a new believer. What an incredible picture! This experience is likened to the sun being swallowed by the Earth; or a mushroom cloud left behind by atomic bombs – ‘it’s like atomic bombs in reverse’; or a glass that can contain the entire Sea! Try imagining that… That’s the way God is, in each one of us. The song depicts the hopelessness of our lives before Christ comes to live within us. We are unworthy of such grandeur but Christ showed compassion on us and redeemed us once again into the flock of God. The song is unique in its message and keeps up with the catchy beats of The Afters. Although the song goes a couple of years back, the relevance of the song can still be found today, in terms of its message and its musical influence.
[This YouTube video has been uploaded by Bettina Hoeve]
Moving over to one of the more recent depictions, we have NewSong with their song ‘Swallow the Ocean’. As the title of the song itself proclaims, when God breaks open the Heavens, it’s almost uncontainable – like trying to swallow the ocean. The song once again focuses on the grandeur and greatness of the Lord. It also portrays the Salvation experience when we come alive and undone with God. Additionally, it portrays the weakness and innocence of human beings and our complete reliance on the Lord. The song has found its place on the Top 10 list as well as the charts. The song is fresh and original in its kind – rather, the simplicity in its melody and the inclusion of a higher, more complex level of harmony, revisits some of the earlier flairs of worship music. By bringing in musical elements from the recent past (with respect to worship music), it creates a sense of nostalgia in the minds of listeners. At the same time, there is an original freshness that lies unique to the song which carries its listeners to a peak of culmination and then lets go, sending thrilling vibes through the listener. The song is beautiful, both in message and in its musical precision.