Auden Was Right: Orlando 2016

It feels strange today to read people’s Facebook posts about pizza and soccer, when I am reeling from the second largest massacre in US history (Wounded Knee was the first, folks). But then I was reminded of W.H. Auden’s poem about Breughel’s Icarus, both of which I reproduce here. Be kind to each other, children, and activate for control of automatic weapons.

Icarus

Musee des Beaux Arts

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.

5 comments on “Auden Was Right: Orlando 2016

  1. “Not an important failure” Ugh. Chilling.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep. That’s the problem.

    Like

  3. pastpeter says:

    As when you experience a death and enter a shell-shocked fog, while other people go on with their trivial lives…

    Liked by 1 person

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