coffee brews Wednesday


Michael Dickel

As he wrote Musée des Beaux Arts

Auden danced with Isherwood. He asked about a young man
who had caught their attention long ago in Berlin.
Brecht approved of their love; Gypsy Rose Lee kissed
their cheeks when she visited them on Fire Island.
Auden loved his suffering, embraced it in his bed
each night and held it close, making love with it
before he dreamt of flying toward the sun,
the smell of molten wax, the splash of water.
Just as the blue waves engulfed him
he glimpsed the amazing flashes of color—
yellow, red, orange, blue, green, purple—
of reef fish darting toward a bit of shelter,
smooth dark caves amid the sharp coral reef.

XIR3675

Pieter Brueghel, the Elder, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
Oil-tempera, 29 inches x 44 inches. Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels.

 


W. H. Auden, 1907–1973

Musee 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.

 


William Carlos Williams, 1883–1963

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning


 

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