The puritan age: from celebration to introspectionThe literature of the puritan age was characterized of a general austerity, an increase of introspection and self-criticism, a greater emphasis on realism and analysis of human moods and experience.
Poetry wasn’t characterized by homogeneity of expression, but in the metaphysical poetry there were especially unusual and difficult ideas in relation to emotional states. The main representative of metaphysical poetry was John Donne. The other great influence in the poetry was Ben Jonson; from whose the Cavalier Poets drew inspiration.
They rapresented the life and culture of upper-class pre-Commonwealth England, whose ideals were personal elegance and courteous behaviour. They wrote about women, wine and song, and opposing the austere view of Puritans and their concern with God’s will and with the other world. They never joined in a formal group.
The influence of Latin poets such as Horace and Catullus runs through the works of the Cavalier poet also in the kind of Epicurean melancholy which promoted enjoyment of life’s fleeting beauty.
A few names stand out in the body of Cavalier poetry: Richard Crashaw and Richard Lovelace.
There was also the remarkable development of religious poetry.
John Milton represented a highly individual voice and his poetry showed a variety of contemporary influences, and there were both the humanist and puritan character,
The last great poet of the century was Andrew Marvell.
The Civil war affected the development of prose. Puritans mistrusted fiction, since for them it was one of the false idols: the attraction of the sensual world which could destroy the spiritual energy of the Good Christian. Prose in general grew less artificial; its subjects were familiar.
The true puritan literary forms were the sermons, the religious tract and the spiritual biography.