a1 Professor of English at George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052 (e-mail: email@example.com).
Brueghel's Fall of Icarus is a visually overwhelming painting: aquamarine expanses of ocean, luminous hills and trees, a world alive with oxen, plowmen, shepherds. The young boy with failed wings plummets to his watery death in a crowded foreground, legs barely visible above engulfing waves. A ship continues its oblivious voyage, a farmer tends his fields, the sun radiates indifferent gold. Transforming Brueghel's painting into poetry, W. H. Auden observed in “Musée des Beaux Arts” that such deaths occur with a diurnal weariness:
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.