Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

The story of Icarus is one of the most enduring stories from Greek mythology, and it is part of the UnTextbook: Daedalus and Icarus. What I wanted to share here today is the beautiful painting called Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, attributed to Pieter Bruegel.


~ ~ ~

The painting, in turn, inspired an amazing poem by W. H. Auden, who saw this painting in Belgium in 1938 (more at Wikipedia); the text is from Paintings and Poems:

Musee des Beaux Arts

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.

~ ~ ~

And William Carlos Williams also wrote a poem about the same painting (more at Wikipedia); the source for the poem again is Paintings and Poems:

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning




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