Andy's ancestors

Andrew Marvell was a 17th century English poet who is often studied as one of the so-called "Metaphysical Poets," a grouping that rests largely on the way the men (they're all male) used "far-fet"* metaphors and comparisons in their poetry.

There's a lot more to the definition than that, and there's a lot more to their work than unusual comparisons and far-fetched similes. But that's something for an English professor to discuss.

As far as Andy Fisher is concerned, the debt is to their tendency to view the world with a certain type of intellect, one that not only makes comparisons but is playful, even humorous with them - and at least vaguely sarcastic and mocking at the same time. Word games, misdirection - those are the metaphysical poets' stock in trade. They're Andy's as well.

John Donne is generally considered a metaphysical poet, and while there is a lot more to his work, the sensibility he displays in his early works in ways is Andy's:

by John Donne

    I am two fools, I know,     For loving, and for saying so        In whining poetry ;But where's that wise man, that would not be I,        If she would not deny ?Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes    Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,I thought, if I could draw my pains    Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.    But when I have done so,
    Some man, his art and voice to show,
        Doth set and sing my pain ;
And, by delighting many, frees again
        Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
    But not of such as pleases when 'tis read.
Both are increasèd by such songs,
    For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

I'd be surprised if anyone beside me - and maybe not even me - could trace the line from that poem to The Helios Conspiracy. I think their head might explode if they did. And yet the tangled lines of inspiration combined just as much John Donne with Jim Rockford to produce Andy Fisher.

No wonder some people are confused . . .

There is a deeper side not just to Donne but to the metaphysical poets, a side that is often expressed in terms of religion; that's especially true in Donne's later poetry, when he turns to contemplations of death and mortality. That's not really Andy's thing - or it hasn't been to this point. But given that tomorrow's Easter, this Donne poem seems an appropriate one:


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so ; For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow, Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which but thy picture[s] be, Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. Thou'rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well, And better than thy stroke ;  why swell'st thou then ? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And Death shall be no more ;  Death, thou shalt die. 

A collection of Donne's poetry can be found here.

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*"Far-fetched" meaning metaphors or comparisons that weren't the stock in trade at the time. The implication is that the poets' work appeals as much to Reason and logic as to Emotion. You can debate that in a lit class, as I'm sure several thousand English professors and students have done. But that, too, is how Andy works - although he trips hard over Emotion in The Helios Conspiracy.

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