"Musee Des Beaux Arts" by W. H. Auden

Essay by microstuffedHigh School, 11th gradeA-, May 2006

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The poem Musee Des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden is a poem about human suffering and is best seen in context when viewing the "Fall of Icarus" painting by Breughal.

The basic theme of the poem is a response to the tragedy of the death of Icarus represented in the painting by Breughal. The opening life "About Suffering, they were never wrong" already sets the overall message of the poem: that suffering is all around us. The poem gives a subjective view of suffering and states that it is merely another part of our lives. It does this through juxtaposing images of tragedy and suffering with the ordinary events of everyday life and the effect created is a tone of indifference towards individual tragedies of Humankind, in this case of Icarus.

In the poem martyrdom and suffering are compared to ordinary events such as "dogs go on with their doggy lives.

The "miraculous birth" at the start of the poem is juxtaposed with the death of Icarus at the end of the poem. Auden is basically stating that life still goes on and that suffering is an accepted part of our lives. This is represented in the line "In Breughal's Icarus, for instance, how everything turns away, quite leisurely from the disaster".

When viewing Breughal's painting, the fall of Icarus is represented with a single flaying leg out of the sea. No one seems to notice Icarus. The ploughman is going on with his ploughing and the Shepherd is occupied with his sheep. Icarus is placed in the bottom right hand corner of the painting, hardly noticeable. This relates back to the poem. "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...