W. H. Auden at 103 — Musee des Beaux Arts at 70   Leave a comment

“Fall of Icarus” by Breughel

Brother Tom will often uses the birthday or anniversary of a favorite author to share his love. This past Sunday I received this:

Today is the birthday of W.H. Auden ( 1907…died at 66 yrs)…. I have always enjoyed this poem of his, “MUSEE des Beaux Arts”; 1940

“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.

A great poet’s reflection on apathy, a fundamental part of the human condition.

Thank you, Tom.

kenne

Posted February 23, 2010 by kenneturner in Art, Poetry

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