Auden vs. Williams on Icarus
Both W.H Auden and William Carlos Williams were inspired to write about an amazing masterpiece of the 16th century by Peter Brueghel, "The Fall of Icarus". Both "Musee des Beaux Arts" and "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" are poetic representations of and expectations on the famous painting. They are both shedding light on ancient myth explaining their similar points of view. Stylistically both poems are written differently, yet both try to convey the same meaning.
In the painting, the focus is on the farmer plowing his field, while in the corner one can see the legs of Icarus drowning in the sea. Auden and Williams were both impressed with how Brueghel portrayed this famous Greek myth about Icarus. Icarus was obsessed with the idea of flying, but found his death in the water. Brueghel almost waters down Icarus’ demise, focusing more on the everyday life of a simple farmer, fisherman, and a shepherd. In order to draw attention to Icarus, William states, "Unsignificantly/ off the coast /there was/ a splash quite unnoticed". Similarly, Auden states, describing the way "everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster". They both point to the fact that in the painting Icarus is drowning and people don't care to help or even look. These people practice ignorance, confirming the common saying that "ignorance is bliss". This does not necessarily mean that the bystanders are better off not being bothered, but that they don’t even seem to be bothered at all by a man drowning.
Auden's poem is constructed in a way that is very different from Williams' poem. Auden’s poem is designed in two stanzas, both very different from one another, but carrying out one theme throughout the entire poem. His first stanza doesn’t address Breughel’s painting at all and is entirely based on the title, "Musee des Beaux Arts". Auden is making a general assumption statement about the "Old masters" and the way that they were "never wrong" about the...