Saturday, 9 November 2019

Favourite Paintings - Landscape with the Fall of Icarus - Peter Breughel the Elder


Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

W.H. Auden, Musée 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. 

See also Favourite Writings - Ovid 

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