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 Topic: Auden's Musee Des Beaux Arts

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Joined: 15 Nov 2004
Posts: 1

Posted: 15 Nov 2004, 11:35 am    Post subject: Auden's Musee Des Beaux Arts Reply with quote

When a friend recently mentioned her passion for poetry, she sent me a short list of some of her favorite poems. Auden's "Musee Des Beaux Arts" was at the top of her list. She wrote:

"What I loved about it when I first read it was simply that it describes the randomness of suffering and how each person's pain happens uniquely in their own moment. It's an isolating and personal experience. But then my responses to poetry are emotional not intellectual. "

That seems to be the accepted interpretation, at least the one that is taught in school. But on reading the poem, it seemed to me, and I am not gay, that there was something more going on. Also, at the time I did not know anything about Auden. I suspected that he was gay from my first reading of the poem and looked him up on the web and to me delight, found out about his lifelong affair with Chester (the game is afoot! --Sherlock Holmes).

Then I went to work on the poem in earnest and found that the current interpretation is very superficial and discovered an entirely new meaning.

The poem’s structure provides two contrasting events, the birth of Christianity and the Fall of Icarus and a loss of personal pride. So here we have two stages of suffering, the first one is the young men trying to ignore the birth of Chrisitianity. It is interesting that Auden uses the phrase

“the aged are reverently, passionately waiting for the miraculous birth”

suggesting that it is only the aged, representing the antithesis of progressive social thought and movement, who are waiting for that “immaculate” conception, the one that they desperately hope will start the long process of cleansing the earth of sin and the redemption of mankind. And all the while, the young men, skating on the edge of the woods (of acceptable social behavior) know that this dreadful occurrence will have to run its course on earth – a fact those of us in the Blue states, even today, are living through and hope to outlive.

The second event, the fall of Icarus comes from the young man’s challenge to the sun, and the loss of a personal pride at the hands of “enlightened people” who cannot totally accept the challenge to move existing social boundaries. But to make matters worse, no one seems to have any compassion for the plight of the young man who falls helplessly and seamlessly into the sea.

I like the idea of Auden’s personal pain and the idea that it is insignificant and unimportant to the rest of the world, hardly worth dealing with. And given the attention to “values” I HATE THAT WORD ptooooey! and the gay marriage issue, it is as important as it ever was. For gays, even people who are liberals are telling them to back off, and are being told to stuff their innermost fears and wants for the greater good. They are being treated as if these aspirations for equality and fair treatment are inconsequential in the current political climate. We, those who are hosting the liberal agenda, have bigger, more important enemies than AIDs and Gay Marriage.

Is this a new idea or are there any critical essays on this new interpretation. I can send a copy of my commentary on the poem if anyone is interested with more details.

I am desperately curious about whether I am just concocting this interpretation from my own imagination and applying it after the fact or whether there is some merit to this view. Any help would be appreciated.

My friend, when I asked her if she thought my interpretation had any merit, wote back to me:

" I just don't know. I think you could be right. Maybe I could send it to my book club in January when I host the poetry night. I thought it was an interesting perspective."

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Joined: 27 Oct 2004
Posts: 5

Posted: 15 Nov 2004, 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The following website has the poem and an analysis of the poem. Thanks for bringing this wonderful poem to my attention.
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Joined: 27 Oct 2004
Posts: 5

Posted: 15 Nov 2004, 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The comment, "the idea of Auden’s personal pain and the idea that it is insignificant and unimportant to the rest of the world, hardly worth dealing with," matches what I've found on the Internet. Your abilities at interpreting poems far exceed mine--thank goodness for the Internet so liberals with a degree in Engineering can understand things that I could spend months reading and not understanding.

Applying this to the current situation of gay marriage, a quote from another site does provide some hope for the future:

"the poem appears to suggest that those events worthy of celebration are the
ordinary, everyday occurrences."

The best news is that no matter anyone's false "mandate" love will prevail.
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