Twitters from Brueghel

June 14, 2009 at 9:59 pm (By Amba) (, )

The landscape on Twitter today, with Iran’s opposition going down in flames while many of us watched ball games and ate and laughed, was this picture and the two poems written about it.


Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Musée 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 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.


  1. karen said,

    I’m always amazed to watch a herd of(anything- most likely 4-legged prey and in flight)seem never to notice the loss of mates running alongside– probably relieved that the dragged down form isn’t their own. They go about business as if all were the same, stopping afterward to graze contentedly w/out a hint of missing those lost.

    That’s us. People are born and die w/in our world– wide or next door– and we graze along, not seriously noticing angst, pain, jubilation… of those w/in own community. It makes me feel pretty bad. Even if it does touch us- if Icarus were counted among our own to love and lose- memory fades. I wonder if this is done on purpose, to let us contiue and to learn to trust and love again? Like the pain of childbirth that is never thought of during the courtship and making of the next to inhabit the womb.

  2. amba12 said,

    I’ve often thought of it as a wagon barreling along with people falling off, and the party on board keeps going.

  3. karen said,

    Maybe because i’m a farmer? Or, watched too many African safari specials on TV– i especially remember the one about the Wilderbeasts and how they cross the riveres and the crocs get some of them, but they continue to cross- they have to- in migration. How they drink and how the littlest who aren’t strong enough to survive or keep up are left to die.

    I always was amazed at the heartlessness of the camera crews to leave those little creatures to perish. I think, now- it is a thing of maturity- and of acceptance of the course of nature.

    Did you get my e-mail on the ice cream jaunt?

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