“Musee des Beaux Arts” is a complex parallel of the world of 1938. As Adolph Hitler’s Death Heads were spreading the Nazi flag onto the heart of Europe, many found it easier to turn their heads and pretend they do not notice or care, than to stop and do something about the suffering of so many Europeans. Inspired by the painting of Pieter Bruegel, “Landscape with Fall of Icarus,” Auden’s brings to our attention the tragedy of humankind and its position by emphasizing the two major themes of birth and death while life follows its way and goes on.
The painting “Landscape with the fall of Icarus” inspired from a Greek myth resembles the tragic ending of Icarus and the carelessness and ignorance of the people witnessing the sad event. Icarus was a Greek mythological figure also known as the son of Daedalus. The myth is about Icarus and Daedalus who were arrested on the island of Crete by the King, and Daedalus constructs wings out of wax so they can fly away and escape from the island. Since the wings were made out of wax Daedalus instructs his son not fly too close to the sea since they will soak into water, but also not too close to the sun since they will melt down.
Unfortunately for Icarus he does not follow the instruction and flies too close to the sun and the tragedy strikes and he falls into the water and dies. As he agrees with the “Old Masters,” the great painters, he ironically introduces the suffering human condition as a tragic scene “hile someone else is eating or opening the window or just walking dully along” (line 4) the author tries to show how ignoring and selfish people can be sometimes.Order now
As a frame to integrate the events he introduces the concept of birth:”How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting For the miraculous birth,” (5-6) and also the concept of death depicted by the drowning Icarus. Witnesses to those events the author depicts the ignorance of people: “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,” and how the splash of the water and the cry caused by Icarus’s fall into the water kept them undisturbed from their daily life activities.
He associates the tragedy of Icarus and the landscape of Bruegel with the events of his time when the Nazi were slowly taking over Europe, and the striking indifference of the rest of the world towards the despair of the unfortunate few. He writes, “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. “(17-21).
This show that the sun does what is suppose to do so there is nothing to do about this, but us, the witnesses to the tragedy, we calmly walk away in our “expensive delicate” lifeboat without looking back, pretending we have not seen anything. The apathy resembled by the people’s indifference response to the tragedy of death in the painting of Bruegel, intrigues the author and forms the setting of the poem. He links the events captured in the painting of Bruegel with real life and somehow concludes that despite miraculous events like birth as well tragedies like death occur around us, we remain indifferent and cold as life goes on.