In which ways is Musee des Beaux Arts a reflective verse or reflective in nature?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

W. H. Auden's poem, written after a viewing of the painting "Fall of Icarus" by Bruegel, is reflective of the nature of man to be indifferent to the misery of others.  For, in this painting there is a "ploughman" who, as he trudges mechanically behind his horse, pays absolutely no attention to the drowning Icarus.  Likewise, the "delicate ship that must have seen/Something amazing," keeps on to its course and sails calmly past.

This indifference of mankind to an individual's misery is minimalized in the painting by Bruegel as the drowning Icarus is painted in the corner of the canvas, but the ploughman is large and in the foreground.  The painting also clarifies what Auden means in his first lines:

About suffering they were never wrong,

The Old Master: how well they understood

Its human position; how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

 The insignificant and terribly mundane act of children skating on a pond supercedes for the children the importance of the celebration of the "miraculous birth" and Christ's dying on the cross, "the dreadful martyrdom."

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Musee is reflective in nature because the poet is using verse to externalize something that has moved him, and touched him. However, he does this in a way that he explains step by step (though in a much more complicated form and complex words) every emotion that he is feeling. It is basically like a stream of consciousness in poetry.

In this poem, he is inspired by a painting at a Museum in Belgium that shows a serene scene of fishermen at work. As he tells the story, he explains that at the end of the calming scene lurks in the distance the shape of a man, drowning. It was Icarus, and he was dying amidst the peaceful-looking scene.

The way that the poet comares birth and death, martyrdom and peace are direct messages sent to the readers on his personal reflections on that ocasion. This is what makes it a "reflective" piece of work.

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Musée des Beaux Arts

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