Archive for August 31st, 2022


Brueghel - Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Pieter Brueghel- Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

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 Brueghel’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.

W.H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts

This painting from Pieter Brueghel the Elder is such a wonderful piece, not only for the beautiful manner in which it is rendered, as is the case with all Brueghel paintings. There is so much to take, again like all Brueghel paintings. Icarus, the mythic character whose wings of wax melted when he flew too close to the Sun who is seen only in the legs plunging into the sea near the ship in the bottom right quarter, might well be the main character in this painting but the competing narratives give it greater depth.

Maybe even a sense of reality. After all, the amazing and the sometimes miraculous often takes place while being barely noticed by those near enough to be witness. There are still jobs to be done, places to go and people to see. Life to live. No time for taking in the wonder before them.

It makes me wonder how often it has happened to myself or those around me. How often have we witnessed something remarkable yet didn’t even notice?

Or maybe it should be said that we often have mythic level lives, filled with tragedy, suffering and heroism, being lived around us that we don’t even recognize as we focus on our own lives and concerns.

Something to think about, I guess. The Auden poem says it well, that suffering often takes place unnoticed as folks just live their lives around it.

Here’s a reading of it from Tom O’Bedlam.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: