Name: Dana Tsai
Poetry4-Musee Des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
Beginning with these three lines, the speaker talked about three paintings to show the artists' observations of tragedies and broader perspective toward life.
The three paintings are the massacre story in the Bible, the war and the mythology of Icarus. These are all tragedies; however, in the paintings there are great contrasts. For those who weren't suffering from the tragedies, their life is still quite the same and doesn't get changed because of "other" people's suffering. The words "dully", "doggy life", and "innocent" are full of the tone of irony, showing most people's common reaction toward tragedies: the ignorant and "none-of-my-business" attitude.
Life is series of comedies and tragedies. Besides human suffering, the speaker, or the painter, also mentioned that life contains hope and happiness also. The "miraculous birth" means the birth of Jesus Christ; it's sacred and gives us hopeful and joyful feeling. From here we see how artists, including painters and poets, describe real human life in a faithful and true way.
In the description of the third painting, the speaker talked about different "indifference" of different perspectives. <ˇKthe plowman may/ Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,/ But for him it was not an important failure;ˇK> Although the farmer might have seen the tragedy of Icarus falling, he still kept on his working, holding an indifferent attitude. To him it might be something surprising and shocking, but that's all what he would feel. There couldn't be any further thinking or even action. He's got something more important to deal with-his farm work, which is greatly important in his basic living. The attitude of the rich toward the tragedy is worse. <ˇKand the expensive delicate ship that must have seen/ Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,/ Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.> Here we see a scornful irony, from the words "something amazing" and "sailed calmly on". Can the rich possibly feel exactly how the poor feel about struggling to survive? Can the upper class, the ruler, really have the same feeling with whose live in the lower class? And the worse, the "delicate" ship just saw Icarus' falling as "something amazing", and then "calmly sailed on", doing nothing to save the boy. This could be the worst indifference.
The whole poem is about real human life, about the connection between tragic events, hope and daily life. Such tragedies and sad things are the irregularity in our regular life. However, "environment" has great influence here. With different perspective, or to put it more specifically, with different "classes" of living, the reactions will be different. What's the same is that people all have the ignorance to tragedies which don't seem to happen around. In this poem the rhyme and length of lines suggest the situation, too. If we observe the whole poem, we'll find that at first the line length is irregular, but then it becomes more and more regular. As for the rhyme, it's not easily found unless we read the poem carefully. In other words, it's some kind of "hidden rhyme". If we compare rhyme to tragedy, the rhyme actually implies the "position of human suffering." And the changes of the line length suggest readers if the irregularity has gradually become something regular in the daily life owing to people's indifference. Also, this "irregularity in regularity" implies the life which is with series of happiness and tragic events.
Compared with the poem, nowadays we seem to be even more ignorant to the tragic news in our daily life. With more and more frustrating tragic things coming, do we see the "irregularity" as something "regular"? Perhaps we all need to learn from the artists, and try to view the life with a more objective and broader perspective.