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Museedes Beaux Arts

Museedes Beaux Artsis a poem by W.H. Auden that responds to the tragedy of life (Poetryby Heart). Auden composed the poem while observing ancient art in aMuseum: . He states, &quotAbout suffering…werenever wrong…Old Masters: how…they understood&quot (Auden, line 1– 2). Auden uses critical irony to bring the reader to understandanguish as represented in art, and as a familiar feeling in the realworld. Auden also states, &quothow…they understand…humanposition…While…someone…is eating…the aged are…passionatelywaiting&quot (Auden, line 3 – 5). This statement reveals howpeople in the real world abandon the needs of the old as they pursuetheir goals or happiness. This paper explicates Auden`s Musee desBeaux Arts it attempts to bring the reader to understand Auden`sstyle of writing and how he describes the events that transpire inthe world using art.

Museedes Beaux Artsis a French word for &quotMuseum of Fine Arts.&quot Auden usesBrueghel`s art, in the museum of fine arts in Brussels, to develop anarrative about the plight of human beings in society (Poetry Pages).Pieter Brueghel`s portrait seems to have shaped Auden`s perception ofthe world profoundly (Pieter Brueghel). Brueghel`s paintings have amoralizing significance, and Auden`s poem accentuates this moralsignificance. The poem was written in 1939 after the Loyalists weredefeated in the Spanish Civil War and the Europeans acquiesced toFascism. Auden`s anger, in Museedes Beaux Arts,may have been propagated by the distress he suffered during thisperiod.

Museedes Beaux Artsis a two stanza poem where Auden expresses his displeasure for thegeneral indifference that is present in the world. The first stanzaof the poem offers a somewhat general explanation of the events thatunfold. However, the second stanza is more detailed it criticizesthe indifference that is reveled in Brueghel’s portrait. Audenbegins by creating a picture, in the mind of the audience, showinghow most individuals proceed with their daily activities withoutnoticing the striking events that transpire around them. For example,Auden states, &quothow…they understand…humanposition…While…someone…is eating…the aged are…passionatelywaiting (Auden, line 3 – 5). Auden is amazed at how individualsseem comfortable with their lives but fail to recognize the pain thatthe people around them are experiencing. He even proceeds to show howchildren disregard the instructions given to them by their elders,and, later, suffer consequences that are too grave for them torecover. He states, &quotChildren…did not…want it to happen, Ona pond…the edge…of wood…never forgot…even…dreadfulmartyrdom…run its course&quot (line 7 – 10).

Audenalso highlights how indifference spreads to animals. By readingAuden`s poem, one may assume that apathy is a trait that only humanbeings can exhibit. However, Auden reveals how animals are alsoindifferent to the events that are transpiring around them. Audenstates, &quotin a corner…dogs go on with…life and the…torturer`shorse Scratches its…behind on a tree (Auden, line 11 – 13).Auden`s statement reveals how widespread the lack of concern hasbecome. Usually, dogs are required to protect their owners, but inthis case, they act as if nothing wrong is happening. Also, the horseseems more concerned about its itchy behind than the transgressionsthat its master may be undertaking.

Inthe second stanza, Auden writes about the events that are transpiringin Brueghel`s portrait. Auden writes, &quotin Brueghel`sIcarus…everything turns away…literally from disaster (Auden, line15 – 16). Auden cannot help but marvel at the beautiful landscapeand human activity continuing in the portrait however, Icarus` feetarouse his anger. Icarus, a Greek mythological figure, is seendrowning, but a man ploughing his land does not take note of this, inspite of the fact that he probably heard the splash. Auden states,&quotQuite leisurely…the ploughman…heard the splash…forsakenthe cry…But…it was not…important…the sun shone&quot (line 16– 17). Auden`s statement reveals that as long as the ploughman wasnot inconvenienced by anything from his ploughing activities, he didnot care about anything else. Also, Auden brings his reader`sattention to the ship that is sailing alongside Icarus` drowningbody. He writes, &quotthe expensive…ship…seen…something…hadsomewhere…get to…sailed calmly&quot (line 19 – 22).

Inaddition, Auden also criticizes Brueghel for being indifferent in hisportrait. Auden places emphasis on how Brueghel minimalizes Icarus`demise. He criticizes Brueghel for drawing a picture that made thedeath of Icarus idyllic. By accentuating Brueghel`s indifference toIcarus, Auden makes the image more horrifying because the reader isbrought to the realization that, in the real world, a person`s demisemay not be taken too seriously. This perception is revealed byAuden`s revelation of the activities of the ploughman and the sailors(line 15 – 22).

Ina recap of the above discussion, Auden brings his audience to therealization that indifference defines life. Humans and animals areindifferent to the plight of others. In essence,emphasizes that as long as one`s life is proceeding as he likes, thisperson will not care about the troubles of other people. As Audenreveals, in spite of the fact that Icarus had a somewhat highstanding in society, no one bothered to help him as he was drowning.


Auden,W.H. MuseeDes Beaux Arts.Print.

PieterBruegel. &quotPieter Bruegel.&quot&, 2016. Web. 4 July 2016.

Poetryby Heart. &quotPoetry by Heart | Musée Des BeauxArts&quot.&, 2016. Web. 4 July 2016.

PoetryPages, &quotCPP – Musee Des Beaux Arts – W.H.Auden&quot.&, 2016. Web. 4 July 2016.