Wystan Hugh Auden- "Musèe des Beux Art”
“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.”
From “Musèe des Beux Art”
The title of this poem, which belongs to the section People and Places of the collection Another Time, refers to the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, which Auden visited in 1938. There he saw Brueghel’s painting Landscape with the fall of Icarus; ispired by this and other paintings, Auden developed a notion of human nature and suffering which transcends time and space. In this extract is described the crucial event of the fall of Icarus which conveys the theme of Sorrow. Another theme is the world’s indifference to individual suffering human acts are perceived in a relative way: their value changes depending on the perspective from which they are seen. What is important or amazing to one person is insignificant to another.
Men before deciding to behave badly to their fellow creatures, they should wonder: If someone injured me,what would I do?