Thursday, July 31, 2008

Musee Des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden


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 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.
please note: art by Pieter Breughel

2 comments:

  1. A beautiful poem whose lines echoed in my mind the first time I ever laid my eyes on an actual Breughel in the flesh.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As a once-English teacher, I love this poem. About suffering, no, they were never wrong.

    Very relevant message; there was an earthquake in China? When?

    And perhaps my teaching mind, a chapter away, but I hear:

    `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

    ReplyDelete

Hey, thanks for your thoughts and your time:>)