All About Me …

Icarus by Brueghel (my interpretation)



This week in class, we reviewed W.H. Auden’s poetic interpretation of Icarus by Brueghel. Though the story and of course Auden’s poem are hotly debated, my take on both are quite simplistic. The story of Icarus is essentially the fall of Icarus. Why did Icarus fall? Well, Icarus fell because he was flying too close to the Sun and his father warned him not to, because his wings would melt. Ignoring his father, Icarus did as he pleased and flew as close to the Sun as he liked; as a result, his wings began to melt and he fell into the sea. Of course, readers could place this tale under “Scientific Investigation” but that would be highly unnecessary. See, Icarus fell into the sea because his wings began to melt. His wings began to melt because he flew too close to the sun. He flew too close to the Sun because he was arrogant and disobeyed his father. The moral of this story, as I said earlier is “quite simplistic.” Icarus fell because of his deliberate disobedience and his obvious arrogance. Why did he disobey his father in the first place? Why did he behave so arrogantly? Hmmm … these questions also have simple explanations. You see, during teenage and young adulthood, this is a time in which youth are highly rebellious. This is the time that we think we know everything about everything, and no one can tell us anything. That is a cautionary tale for youth, according to Brueghel, but then again there is Auden’s elaboration on the tale. In Auden’s poem, “Musee des Beaux Arts,” he has another side to tell. Auden references the “aged” a few times in the poem. The “aged” are the “wise.” The “aged” await the fall of youth. The “aged” are wise enough to know that this time will come if the young do not tread lightly and take valuable advice. In the line, “Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating/On a pond at the edge of the wood:,” Auden depicts the mindset of the young as vicarious and a bit foolish. Skating on a pond is already a dangerous act but skating on a pond towards the edge of a wood is much farther away from the protection of others. The farther one skates, the farther out of sight they are. I believe this metaphor is intended to scold the young for their ignorance and reckless behavior. This is the same behavior that Icarus exhibited, by ignoring the wise words of his father and flying too close to the Sun. Auden essentially says in the poem that if the young do not listen to the wise and accept advice, they will all fall. Like the ploughman who considered Icarus’ fall to not be, “an important failure,” the young will be cast aside and overlooked for this disrespect and disregard.


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This entry was posted on September 27, 2013 by in Who are you?.
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