Hope against hope: Abraham Cowley and the metaphysics of poetry

Ted Tregear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a poem to his friend Richard Crashaw, Abraham Cowley offered a critique of hope in ostentatiously metaphysical terms. He thus initiated an exchange, "On Hope," whose philosophical tenor offers new insights on the dialectic between poetry and metaphysics in seventeenth-century England. Following Cowley's lead, this essay explores the principle of hope in metaphysical poetry. It reads his poem against the metaphysical tradition, from Aristotle to Theodor Adorno, to clarify its engagement with the Aristotelian notion of potentiality. And it shows how, even in writing against hope, Cowley's poetry can think, and hope, in ways that metaphysics cannot.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)979-1006
JournalEnglish Literary History
Issue number4
Early online date8 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Dec 2023


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