Some Poems Worth Your Time: Musee des Beaux Arts--WH Auden

Some Poems Worth Your Time: Musee des Beaux Arts--WH Auden

I thought it might be fun to look at poems that have meant something to me in my reading, writing, and attempts to live. I'm not going to claim these are the greatest poems ever written. I'm saying that these poems mean a lot to me, and so I am pointing them out to you in hopes that you will find something there, too. Here is the first:

"Musee des Beaux Arts"--WH Auden

I love all things Auden, but this one in particular speaks important truth to me. It is a meditation on suffering, as seen through classical painting, using Breugel's painting "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus" as his example.

Here is a link to the poem, with the painting

Auden's poem explains the painting, but it expands it, to include old masters paintings in general--and, of course, suffering in general.

I think it's fair to say that the poem is also about art and the artist--including poetry and the poet (as all poetry ultimately is). It is the artist-poet's duty to call attention to those things that may be going on while the horse is busy scratching its behind on a tree. The artist is paying attention, and without the artist, we would all live poorer lives.

And then, it follows that we are all asked to be artist-poets and not farmers staring down at our feet and at the ground in front of us. Be a poet-farmer; see the world around you, and marvel at it!

By the way, I don't believe the poem is extolling Icarus. To me, it doesn't seem to suggest that we should fail spectacularly, though some see that as what an artist does. I see the poem as suggesting that there are spectacular things all around us--especially spectacular failures and the attendant suffering. And the real tragedy is that we ignore it all the time.

I suppose it's a preachy poem in that regard. Or at least it preaches to me: Pay attention! But it is so good that I don't mind being taught its lesson.

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