"To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph" by Anne Sexton What is the message of the original greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus?

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rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the myth of Icarus, Daedalus, Icarus’s father, makes wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son, so they can escape imprisonment on Crete. Daedalus tells his son to not fly too high or too low. He tells him to follow his flight. Icarus though, exhilarated by his newfound flying abilities, flies too close to the sun and melts his wings. He falls into the sea and drowns.

Sexton‘s poem is an allusion to a poem by Yeats, “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing.” In Yeats's poem, the poet explains that the “most difficult” thing is to stand by work you believe in while those with public support triumph at your expense. Sexton inverts Yeats’s title and uses the Icarus myth to suggest that it is perhaps all too easy to enjoy temporary success. Her line, ”Who cares if he fell back into the sea?” can be read either as ironic (Icarus cared, at least!) or as a celebration of what it is possible to achieve if one is willing to risk everything.