Take a Stanza – Musee des Beaux Arts

It’s time once again for the monthly stanza. This one appears at the end of a poem by W. H. Auden, one of the great 20th century poets. Some of you may remember the Auden poem that the Scottish chap read for his dead friend in Four Weddings and a Funeral. This is a different poem.

Musee des Beaux Arts

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.

W. H. Auden

Here’s what the Breughel painting looks like:

The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Breughel

If you look carefully, you can see the legs of Icarus in the lower-right corner. His dive had a high degree of difficulty, but he over-rotated a bit, and there was too much splash on the landing.

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