The idea of meaning in poetry can be a somewhat subjective one. Different schools of thought interpret meaning differently: much literary criticism does not take into account what the writer intended something to mean, but rather what it means to the reader. Berryman's "Winter Landscape" is itself a reflection on another piece of work, Brueghel's painting "Hunters in the Snow," and elaborates on the meaning he himself found there.
Essentially, he describes the image in the picture—"three men coming down the winter hill," with the ice rink behind them "lively with children"—and reflects that, as they are only figures in a painting, "they can never reach" the "companions" in the distance. The image in the picture is fixed, crystallized in time in the year it was painted, 1565.
Yet, to Berryman, the picture has a different meaning than the one it may have had to the painter. Looking at the picture with the benefit of hindsight, Berryman imagines "the evil waste of history" which took...
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