Auden Verses Williams
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W.H. Auden and William Carlos Williams have both written poems inspired by the painting, The Fall of Icarus, by Pieter Brueghel. Auden’s poem “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Williams’ poem, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” each discuss the story of Icarus in different ways. Auden’s poem uses Brueghel’s painting of Icarus as an example to make a general point about suffering while Williams’ poem focuses more directly on the story of Icarus through Brueghel’s painting to indirectly imply an idea about suffering.
“Musée des Beaux Arts” uses the tale of Icarus to explain how easily people ignore suffering that occurs around them. Auden begins his poem by mentioning how well “Old Masters,” or famous painters, understood human suffering. The poem implies that famous painters understand that during feeble daily tasks, there are other people suffering. Auden discusses the way in which suffering “takes place/while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking/dully along” (3-4). “Musée des Beaux Arts” includes lines about various events that occur in daily life that go unnoticed in the first stanza. Words in the poem’s first stanza such as: waiting, birth, skating, and martyrdom are mentioned to show the sporadic pattern of events in life. I believe each of these words are mentioned in order to further portray the fact that while one event occurs in our own life, other events are occurring elsewhere. Directly after Auden mentions various life events he transitions into the second stanza. The first statement of the second stanza is, “Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance…” (14). Auden begins the second stanza this way in order to use Icarus’ story as an example of the way in which suffering occurs all around in life. Lines fourteen and fifteen lead into a list of things from Brueghel’s painting which ignore Icarus’ fall by stating, “…how easily everything turns away/Qu...
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