“Icarus”, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”, “Waiting for Icarus”
- Pages: 3
- Word count: 645
- Category: Poetry
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Icarus is a character in Greek myth. According to the myth he and his father fly with wings that his father made out of wax and feathers. They are trying to escape from a mean king. Icarus’ father warns him not to fly to close to the sun or the wax would melt, ruining his wings. Icarus is caught up in the glory of his flight and does not heed his fathers warning. His wings fall apart and he plummets to the sea and drowns. The myth of Icarus appears to be fairly straight forward, and yet three poets write poems expressing three different perspectives using specific techniques. The three poets and their poems are Edward Field’s “Icarus,” William Carlos Williams’ “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” and Muriel Rukeyser’s “Waiting for Icarus.”
In Field’s poem, he chooses to change the ending and “decry the impact of modern society upon individuals” (Roberts 928). In his poem, Icarus does not drown, he “had swum away coming at last to the city where he rented a house and tended the garden” (Field 8 and 9). This is a very common existence for a man who had once soared so high. This poem is about the expectations people have and the reality they get. Icarus is a “hero who goes on living long after the moment of glory, and is puzzled, bored, and unhappy with the drabness of the uneventful life” that he now leads (Roberts 354). No one has any idea who Icarus is, or of the great act he once performed. The witnesses did not care, Field writes, they “ran off to a gang war” (5). His neighbors are all too busy with their own lives to care about who Icarus really is. Edwards is implying that life simply goes on. Icarus, having achieved a moment of greatness, has been living a dull and normal life “and wishes he had drowned” (Field 30).
The point that life goes on is something that Field’s poem has in common with Williams’. Williams also expresses that life goes on, but he uses Brueghal’s painting to do it. Williams is able to “recreate the painting in verbal images” (Roberts 357). Through his verbal images he describes “a farmer was ploughing his field” and says “insignificantly off the coast there was a splash quite unnoticed” (Williams 4, 19 and 20). The fact that the farmer does not notice the splash of Icarus is Williams’ way of showing that, no matter what occurs, life simply goes on. Unlike Field, Williams does not use any punctuation. The lack of punctuation is “to indicate an absence of expressive inflection,” which further proves the insignificance of Icarus’ fall to the society around him (Cole 151).
Rukeyser puts a completely different spin on the myth. She shows that even though life goes on, the decisions that people make do affect those around them. She does this by writing from “the point of view of [Icarus’] girlfriend” (Roberts 354). Like Williams, Rukeyser uses the lack punctuation as a tool in her poem. She only uses punctuation in the last stanza. The lack of punctuation and the “methodical repetition” of phrases like “he said” and “I remember” are used to show how women tend to babble on and on (Roberts 355 and Rukeyser 1 and 12). Perhaps that is why Rukeyser writes about her friends saying “he only wanted to get away from” her (15). This poem is more about the fall of a romance, while the first two are about the insignificant fall of a hero.
Greek mythology is one medium, where people typically come to their own conclusions. The three poets discussed above are not different in that respect. They have taken the same myth and interjected their own ideas and techniques to create different angles, in which to express themselves.