Thursday, 6 December 2012

Poetry Reads: Musee Des Beaux Arts by WH Auden


WH Auden’s Musee Des Beaux Arts is inspired by the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium which houses the painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. The painting reveals a calm landscape where people are sailing on a ship. Such is life or rather, the poem illustrates how art is an imitation of life and Icarus’ fall from the sky seems‘ something amazing’ to the ship crew and they just sailed on. It is merely an emphasis on how life must run its course despite any turbulence and people’s existence or death is a situation of apathy to the rest.

This poem is spectacular in terms of its description. It feels like words that are strewn to create a scene of beauty, existence and ennui. If one is on the lookout for existentialist poetry, here is Musee Des Beaux Arts to read.


Musee des Beaux Arts
by W.H.Auden

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.


(Review by Kabita Sonowal)

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