unedited thoughts

auden’s ‘musee des beaux arts’ + breughel’s ‘fall of icarus’

i have been returning to a poem by auden a lot over this past weekend, ‘musee des beaux arts’. i feel the words so effectively express the sentiment of the times in the usa.

i can also so vividly imagine auden standing at the museum in front of breughel’s painting ‘fall of icarus’, and being profoundly struck by the image of the world’s nonchalance to something so extraordinary. icarus in this case, both in the painting, and auden’s ‘boy falling out of the sky’ represents something so much more than a mythical being or just simply a lost child. he is everything.


breughel’s ‘fall of icarus’

musee des beaux arts
by w. h. auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.



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