Artistry, and the Fall of Icarus
About Allusions and Icarus
|Now that you have read and reflected on some of the allusions in Auden's poem, you can
watch for allusions in your daily life as well as allusions in imaginative literature. For
example, "the milk of human kindness" may be an allusion to a speech by Lady
Macbeth in Shakespeare's play Macbeth. Any reference in the media or elsewhere to
"the cruelest month" probably alludes to "April" in T. S. Eliot's poem
The Waste Land, where the reference is itself an allusion to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury
Tales, in which the prologue says that the sweet showers of April lead people to go on
pilgrimages. One of my favorites from recent popular culture is the "wart hog from
hell" in the movie Raising Arizona--a clear allusion to Flannery O'Connor's
short story "Revelation."
If you are assigned a formal paper about poetry or
about allusions or about Icarus in myth, here are some ideas suggested by Allusion,
Artistry, and the Fall of Icarus. The notes you saved from your Reflections on Musee des Beaux Arts and Impressions
of the Legend of Icarus may give you other ideas for writing more formal papers.
- Write a comparison-contrast of Auden's Musee des Beaux Arts and Williams's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
or another poem about the legend of Icarus. Either write an interpretive essay based on
your own careful reading with a college dictionary and a mythology reference as your only
resources or do some research on critical articles about the two poems.
- Find another painting-poetry pairing to discuss. Ferlinghetti, e.e. cummings, and Anne
Sexton all wrote paintings about poems.
- Find reproductions of all three of the paintings alluded to in Musee des Beaux Arts
and read what art scholars have said about them. Then write about what these allusions to
paintings contribute to your understanding of the poem.
- Read about W. H. Auden's life and work and write about Musee des Beaux Arts with
a biographical approach in which you discuss the connection of the poem to Auden's life
- Read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and some of the scholarship that
discusses the allusion to Icarus and Daedalus in the name and character of the book's
protagonist, Stephen Daedalus.
- Read Anne Sexton's poem To a Friend Whose Work
Has Come to Triumph and W. B. Yeats's poem To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to
Nothing. Discuss Sexton's poem as a response to Yeats's poem.
- Contrast Sexton's view of Icarus with with Auden's or Williams's or Pastula's.
- Select an image that you like from any of the poems in this Web site and explicate it in
- Write your own poem inspired by the legend of Icarus.
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