Fall of Icarus

Williams begins the poem on an impersonal level with the line “according to Brueghel” as if the succeeding stanzas belonged to an academic paper.  Next is a casual listing of daily goings on of the area, the farmer plowing the field, the spring vegetation and the heat of the sun.  The drowning of Icarus is just another item on the list, an item of seemingly little importance.  The poem lacks any punctuation which suggests a tone of indifference to the state of Icarus.  The simplicity of the poem as well as the ending line “Icarus drowning” is meant to catch the reader off guard and emphasize the irony of the suggested lack of importance of the individual human existence.

As I read this poem it brought to mind a section of Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” which called into account the helpless role of the individual within nature by suggesting nature “did not seem cruel to him then, nor beneficent, nor treacherous or wise.  But she was indifferent, flatly indifferent.”


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One Response to Fall of Icarus

  1. dmsda says:

    I pointed out above how the theme of indifference seems to be apparent in both Williams and Crane’s pieces. Like Williams, In “Howl” Ginsberg uses the same kind of tone of indifference when listing rather serious subjects such as suicide or the treatments of mental patients. Yet the act of doing this does not suggest humanity’s indifference but rather uses humor to strip what people consider serious and what is left is the humor and irony of life. I do not think Williams had this in mind but it is interesting comparing the outcome of a similar literary effect.

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