Guide Icarus and Other Poems

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  4. The death of Icarus, and other poems
  5. The Death of Icarus, and Other Poems : Arthur Knowles Sabin :

His father cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you? Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god. Daedalus was so proud of his achievements that he could not bear the idea of a rival.

His sister had placed her son Perdix under his charge to be taught the mechanical arts. He was an apt scholar and gave striking evidences of ingenuity. Walking on the seashore he picked up the spine of a fish. Imitating it, he took a piece of iron and notched it on the edge, and thus invented the saw.

He, put two pieces of iron together, connecting them at one end with a rivet, and sharpening the other ends, and made a pair of compasses.

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Daedalus was so envious of his nephew's performances that he took an opportunity, when they were together one day on the top of a high tower to push him off. But Minerva Athena , who favours ingenuity, saw him falling, and arrested his fate by changing him into a bird called after his name, the Partridge. This bird does not build his nest in the trees, nor take lofty flights, but nestles in the hedges, and mindful of his fall, avoids high places. The death of Icarus is told in the following lines by Erasmus Darwin grandfather of Charles : " About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters: 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; How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting For the miraculous birth, there always must be Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating On a pond at the edge of the wood: They never forgot That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus , for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the plowman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water; and 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 is a recording of the poem by your reader, in streaming RealAudio: Click HERE [] Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on, testing this strange little tug at his shoulder blade, and think of that first flawless moment over the lawn of the labyrinth.


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Think of the difference it made! There below are the trees, as awkward as camels; and here are the shocked starlings pumping past and think of innocent Icarus who is doing quite well: larger than a sail, over the fog and the blast of the plushy ocean, he goes.


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Admire his wings! Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling into that hot eye.

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Who cares that he fell back to the sea? See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down while his sensible daddy goes straight into town. Here is a recording of the poem by your reader, in streaming RealAudio: Click HERE [] Only the feathers floating around the hat Showed that anything more spectacular had occurred Than the usual drowning. The police preferred to ignore The confusing aspects of the case, And the witnesses ran off to a gang war.

So the report filed and forgotten in the archives read simply Drowned, but it was wrong: Icarus Had swum away, coming at last to the city Where he rented a house and tended the garden. That nice Mr. Hicks the neighbors called him, Never dreaming that the gray, respectable suit Concealed arms that had controlled huge wings Nor that those sad, defeated eyes had once Compelled the sun.

And had he told them They would have answered with a shocked, uncomprehending stare. No, he could not disturb their neat front yards; Yet all his books insisted that this was a horrible mistake: What was he doing aging in a suburb? Can the genius of the hero fall To the middling stature of the merely talented?


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And nightly Icarus probes his wound And daily in his workshop, curtains carefully drawn, Constructs small wings and tries to fly To the lighting fixture on the ceiling: Fails every time and hates himself for trying. He had thought himself a hero, had acted heroically, And now dreamt of his fall, the tragic fall of the hero; But now rides commuter trains, Serves on various committees, And wishes he had drowned. I would have liked to try those wings myself.

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ISBN 13: 9781165529391

It would have been better than this. Muriel Rukeyser Inclusion of this poem was kindly suggested by Nancy Schadt. The text of the following poem has been seen on my site since its first publication, and can now be heard in audio. It is an important poem in the scheme of things at the dawn of twenty-first century American poetry.

Note especially the "white-hot" energy of the next to last stanza. It was his idea, this flying thing. We collected feathers at night, stuffing our pockets with mourning dove down. By day, we'd weave and glue them with the wax I stole after we'd shooed the bees away.

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The death of Icarus, and other poems

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