Consider the italicized words—do you find them particularly significant? Why might the poet have chosen these over...

Consider the italicized words—do you find them particularly significant? Why might the poet have chosen these over others?

http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/litweb05/workshops/poetry/auden2.asp

 

Expert Answers
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, these words are not italicized in the original poem, so I'm assuming this question was designed for the website. However, each word serves the function of highlighting the theme of the poem: Art filters tragedy through a lens of disinterest and antipathy.

Consider the first two pairs, for example. "Human" & "dully" are contrasted with "reverently, passionately." So what is human is juxtaposed with what is spiritual. The suggestion is that everyday human life is boring, missing that reverence and passion. The next phrase "miraculous birth" connects to the spiritualism, but the fact that the children don't care about it reveals humanity's tendency to ignore significant events. Again, "dreadful", "untidy", and "doggy's life" all refer back to the idea of the prosaic existence, while "torturer's" opposes the "innocent" behind of the horse.

In the last satnza, the opening phrase "quite leisurely" is ironically contrasted with the image of Icarus. He is described as "forsaken" and "something amazing" which both imply depth and magnitude. Yet the ship sails "calmly" on, ignoring the momentous happening behind it.

Read the study guide:
Musée des Beaux Arts

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question