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Theme of Musee Des Beaux Arts

Theme of Musee Des Beaux Arts

Dotnepal presents an analysis of W.H. Auden’s poem Musee Des Beaux Arts. Download a file from the given link.

Analysis of Musee Des Beaux Arts | Download

W.H.Auden has shown the callous indifference to suffering of the modem humanity in his poem “Musee Des Beaux Arts”. Auden brings the lyric by pursing the painter, Burghel, who in fact had the touching intelligence on the theme of painting specially on the nature of human suffering, indifference and humiliation. This painting shows the overuse of technology and the objective of exploring everything. In the name of using technology and exploring newness, the painter shows the fall of Icarus as the pathetic condition of individual suffering, but it is not only the individual suffering, its a whole human suffering in the sense that one individual’s sorrow should be shared with another and one should help the other in the time of pain or suffering. But Brughel presents other people who were indifferent to the suffering of Icarus. People eat and drink and enjoy, the dogs continue to live their lives as usual and children continue to play unconsumed even in the modest of such a great tragedy as a crucification of Christ. Some religious minded people may care for Christ, but humanity, as a whole is not much interested either in the birth of Christ or his crucification as he says in the poem:


About suffering they were never wrong,

The old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position; how it takes place

While someone else is citing or opening a widow or just walking dally 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 . . . (Selected Poems 36)


The poet portrays the past with the presents the past which were filled with a sense of honor and respect. He points out to the dread of the sense of sympathy and empathy in the modern man for other people, for the race that is different from his own. The pronoun ‘they’ of these quoted lines refers to the people of the past and by making ‘they’ to accumulate, the poet compels us to concentrate on ourselves as being living in the modern age and compare us to the pre-modern or even the ancient forerunners:


They never forgot

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course,

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot

When the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s house… (Selected Poems 35)


The third picture Icarus by Brughel brings this indifference even more clearly in the poem. It shows the picture of Icarus falling from the sky into the sea, farmers hearing the great splash, turning to sea, and then turning once again to their work entirely at ease and undisturbed. The great disaster is also observed by a crew of ‘a ship at sea’. They are much amazed to sea a boy falling form the sky, and then only two white leg rising out of the sea. This amazement is their only response to the disaster. No effort is made to rescue the fallen boy. The paintings fully bring out the indifference of humanity to individual suffering. The sorrows and sufferings of individuals were habituated.


In this situation Auden exactly wants to show the individual suffering along with the need of spiritual freedom. Though the farmers were hearing the great splash, though crew see the boy falling from the sky; they do not make any effort to rescue the boy; but what Auden emphasizes is that there is something lacking in them so that they do not make their effort. It is why the people do not make any reaction to it because they are laking the spirituality; thus the Auden is in the view that there should be spiritual freedom established so that the boy can be rescued. Auden, by showing the inhumanity wants spiritual freedom to be established in order to live in cheerful, humid and peaceful life.

This is the point that Auden brings out in the poem can be taken as a satire on the callous indifference to the suffering of the modern humanity. As the poem goes:


In brughel’s Icarus, for instance: how every, for instance:

How every thing turns away quite leisurely form the disaster;

The ploughman may have heard the splash, the forsaking;

But for him it was not 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. (Selected Poems 36)


This indifference exists there mainly because of the loss of the spiritual basis and of a marked desire to desire to die for other’s sake just as exemplified by Christ.

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