KЛИHOM


inflections vs. innuendos by Andrew Hart
May 2, 2008, 7:21 am
Filed under: art, literature

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Musee de Beaux Arts
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.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
William Carlos Williams

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
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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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Which do you prefer?

-Andrew

Comment by cosmogeny

Needs more John Barth.

Comment by Jerry Vinokurov

As ekphrastics go, I’m not a big fan of either; they’re both just making some points that should be pretty obvious to any good reading of the painting (unlike, say, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” which spins out a whole long philosophical discourse on that subject). I prefer the Williams, though; the sparseness and economy seem more in line with Breughel’s style than Auden’s erudition does.

Comment by Dave




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