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

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for Google accounts; you can also contact me at