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Musée des Beaux Arts

English 161 poetry analysis

Gabriel Duval

on 27 November 2013

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Transcript of Musée des Beaux Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden
Born in York Februrary 21, 1907 and died in Austria September 1973.

Angloamerican poet, playright, librettist who exerted major influence on poetry of the 20th century.

Musée des Beaux Arts
Written in December 1938 when Auden was in Belgium

He went to Brussels Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique

Lead to inspiration and publishing of this poem in 1940
Melancholic and Indifferent
About suffering they were never wrong

Children who did not specially want it to happen

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Brueghel's Icarus... how everything turns away... the ploughman may have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, but for him it was not an important failure...

The expensive delicate ship must have seen... a boy falling out of the sky... and sailed calmly on
Apathetic and Indifferent
Musée des Beaux Arts refers to the Museum in Brussels, Belgium, where Brueghel's art hangs.
Line 2
Lines 6 and 10
Line 14
The Old Masters: how well they understood

Artists of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries

They faced much suffering
In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Relates to Pieter Brueghel's painting "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus"

Icarus and Daedalus story greek mythology.








Frames how suffering can take place within an idyllic environment where those not involved are unaware of the tragedy unfolding

While someone else eating or opening a window or just walking dully along
Imagery creates a sense of normality by describing everyday activities

Children [...], skating on a pond at the edge of the wood
Brueghel's painting, "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” is imagery in itself,

Gives readers a clearer understanding of what the theme is about
Social classes may be different, but people within each class act the same way towards tragedy that is not directly affecting them.

For instance, the ploughman and the elegant ship
We do not anticipate tragedy to strike, especially in ordinary circumstances.
People overlook tragedy if it does not affect them; even though it may continue, people can be apathetic and go on with their life.
Symbolism in the Painting
Green Water - Death

Black Clouds or Night - Death, ominous presage or warning.

Icarus - symbol of tragedy
Historical and Political Context and Influences
Marx and Freud


World War I and Oxford group

Beginnings of World War II
Literary Period

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica,
this period is associated after the first World War

Reflects how writers do not have as much faith in Western Culture/Society

Reflects a sense of disillusion, fragmentation

Anti romanticism
Dogs go on with their doggy life.

Torturer's horse scratches it's innocent behind on a tree.
For the miraculous birth.

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course.
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Tragedy is ever-present throughout the life of a person
Symbolism in the Poem
The Old Masters - symbols of wisdom, skill, and also Godlike figures

The Aged - wisdom, patience, understanding

Children - indifference, innocence, youth
Musée des Beaux Arts

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.
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