The sample essay on Auden Musee deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
Compare and contrast Wordsworth’s Elegiac Stanzas and Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts. Show the way these poems convey the experience of human suffering. Explain which of the poems you find the most moving and consoling.
When looking at Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts and Wordsworth’s Elegiac Stanzas the reader can notice that both poems contain a strong reference to suffering and death but their similar subject matter has been obtained from very different paintings.
The reader can also find many points to contrast about the two poems, such as the very personal and romantic style of Wordsworth at a complete contrast to the colloquial and ironic tone of Auden. I will analyse the poems by considering the circumstances of when and why they were written. I will also look at which of the poems I find moving and consoling by looking at the truths behind the poems and the ways in which the poets communicate their ideas.
After reading Wordsworth’s Elegiac Stanzas and Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts the reader can see many differences and similarities between the two poems. It is noticeable that both poems contain human suffering and loss of life. In the case of Auden, the reader sees that when Icarus drowns, ‘everything turns away’ and the death is believed to be ‘not important’, no- one cares.
Auden relates this to real life by showing that even if someone dies life ‘[sails] calmly on’. This illustrates the proverb: no plough ever stops because a man dies. The relevance of this is shown as we see a man, continuing to plough in the foreground of Escape with the Fall of Icarus, a painting that the poem takes inspiration from.
In a contrast to this we see Wordsworth take a much more personal tone to the suffering experienced during the death of his brother, John. Wordsworth becomes very emotional about his loss and experiences suffering because of this:
“A deep distress hath humaniz’d my soul”. Wordsworth shows that the death of a loved one is not always easy to dismiss, ‘the feeling of [his] loss will ne’er be old’, Wordsworth will continue to mourn for his brother. Wordsworth realises that he has become at last a human being not a dreaming poet, because he is suffering a great deal.
The reader, after doing some background research, can see that both poems were inspired by very different paintings. Wordsworth’s Elegiac Stanzas inspired by “Peele Castle in a Storm” by Sir George Beaumont and Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts was inspired by “Escape with the fall of Icarus”, c.1558. Brueghel’s “the numbering at Bethlehem” and “The massacre of the Innocents” are also looked at in the poem and bring in Christian ideals into the poem. Despite these two paintings being very different the poets have managed to see the same subject matter in each, including the suffering and death of Icarus and John.
Both poems look at reality and realism and relate the experiences of the poems to real life. Wordsworth shows this as ‘[he] [has] submitted to a new control’ because of the death of his brother and the ‘delusions’ of the real world that he could not see through. His bother’s death comes as a shock to him as he could not predict its occurrence.
Auden, whilst looking at the suffering that Icarus experiences, shows that life’s struggles are insignificant:
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.
A rare sight, a boy falling out of the sky, is ignored as life runs its course showing that the death was not ‘important’.
It is noticeable that both poems have a turning point. Wordsworth first went to Peele Castle in a summer break, a time when he knew Peele Castle to be a perfect ‘calm’:
“Thy form was sleeping”. The first eight stanzas recall this time and evoke a scene of blissful harmony and tranquillity. The second half of the poem looks at the distress of his brother’s death that ‘hath humanized [his] soul’: The death of his brother has opened his eyes to the real world. Wordsworth’s poetic ideals have been stripped.
Auden displays this turning point by using two simple stanzas. In the first stanza children are ‘skating’ on ice, not knowing the danger that could befall them. The second stanza is a reaction to the ‘disaster’ of the death of Icarus. Auden shows that fate is unavoidable and no one can escape its grasp. We see this as Icarus falling through the ice to his death.
When looking at the circumstances of when and why the two poems were written the reader can find many points to compare and contrast.
Wordsworth’s very eighteenth poem is written as a response to his brother’s death and all the emotions that he experienced in 1805 and how changed he is because of it. The romantic poetry of the time was all a reaction to industrialisation and the loss of nature and stale and artificial styles of writing which is noticeable in Wordsworth’s poem. John, Wordsworth’s brother died at sea and left an everlasting mark in Wordsworth, because of this we see the poem to be very personal and flowing with Wordsworth’s emotions. This is even noticeable in the title selected by Wordsworth, Elegiac Stanzas meaning mourning verse. The reader can almost experience the feelings that Wordsworth is going through the flowing romantic verse that Wordsworth writes.
Auden’s 1939 poem was written in the modern, ironic 20’s and 30’s era. This was a period where no firm set of beliefs were known, there were radical views of sexuality, people were very sceptical of all religious beliefs and people had strong left wing, anti fascist anti nazi commitments. This poem appears to be written in the museum, which gives the poem its title. It also seems to be in response to the nazi activities of the period. Auden is rejecting political involvement because he has become more interested in his religious beliefs. The poem hints at Auden’s involvement in the conflict between meaningful events and an oblivious world. This is noticeable by many references to Christ such as the ‘miraculous birth’ and ‘the dreadful martyrdom’. Auden portrays Icarus as a symbol of man’s aspiring powers. His plummeting from the heavens symbolises the element of despair of the ‘suffering’ endured in life. Auden’s poem does not have the intense passion and emotion of Wordsworth’s poem. This is due to the fact that Auden has not experienced what he is writing about so he cannot convert his own emotions into verse whereas Wordsworth experienced the death of his brother first hand.