Ovid and Later Poets. Exploring the complex psychology of Ovid's myths through English and American poetry. Landscape with the Fall of Icarus Breugel, ca. 1558 Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium. “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” --William Carlos Williams.
Exploring the complex psychology of Ovid's myths through English and American poetry
According to Brueghel when Icarus fell it was spring
a farmer was ploughing his field the whole pageantry
of the year was awake tingling 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
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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.
I stood still and was a tree amid the wood, Knowing the truth of things unseen before; Of Daphne and the laurel bow And that god-feasting couple old that grew elm-oak amid the wold. 'Twas not until the gods had been Kindly entreated, and been brought within Unto the hearth of their heart's home That they might do this wonder thing; Nathless I have been a tree amid the wood And many a new thing understood That was rank folly to my head before.
I live in my wooden legs and Omy green green hands.Too lateto wish that I had not run from you, Apollo,blood moves still in my bark bound veins,I, who ran nymph foot to root in flight,have only this late desire to arm thetrees I lie within. The measure that I have lostsilks my pulse. Each century, the trickeriesof need pain me everywhere.Frost taps my skin and I stay glossedin honor, for you are gone in time. The airrings for you, for that astonishing riteof my breathing tent undone with your light.I only know how this untimely lust has tossedflesh at the wind forever and moved my fearstoward the intimate Rome of the myth we crossed.I am a fist of my uneaseas I spill toward the stars in the empty years.I build the air with the crown of honor; it keysmy out of time and luckless appetite.You gave me honor too soon, Apollo.There is no one left who understandshow I waithere in my wooden legs and Omy green green hands.
non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare, solaque famosam culpa professa facit. -- Amores, III, xiv
I love my work and my children. God
Is distant, difficult. Things happen.
Too near the ancient troughs of blood
Innocence is no earthly weapon.
I have learned one thing: not to look down
So much upon the damned. They, in their sphere,
Harmonize strangely with the divine
Love. I, in mine, celebrate the love-choir.
Poet, Singer, Necromancer—
I cease to run. I halt you here,
Pursuer, with an answer:
Do what you will.
What blood you've set to music I
Can change to chlorophyll,
And root myself, and with my toes
Wind to subterranean streams.
Through solid rock my strength now grows.
Such now am I, I cease to eat,
But feed on flashes from your eyes;
Light, to my new cells, is meat.
Find then, when you seize my arm
That xylem thickens in my skin
And there are splinters in my charm.
I may give in; I do not lose.
Your hot stare cannot stop my shivering,
With delight, if I so choose.