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Musee Des Beaux Arts Poem Analysis

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In his poem “Musee Des Beaux Arts,” W. H. Auden examines European artwork that depicts significant events. In each of the chosen pieces of artwork, the miraculous event that the artist has depicted is not the center focus of the painting. Instead, the perspectives that the artists have taken in their paintings actually place the typical aspects of the event as the focal point. Irony in the artists’ perspectives results in tension and conflict throughout the poem, which particularly include the tension between the miraculous and the everyday as well as the tension between intentional and unintentional apathy. Irony appears in the artists’ choice to put typical aspects as the focal point because discrepancy exists between what is expected to…show more content…
This tension is built based on metaphors in which one party represents the “real” world and another party represents those absorbed in the world of the miraculous. The tension between the miraculous and the everyday is initially developed through the idea that “while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along,” there are others suffering simultaneously (3-4). In the first stanza, two instances of this particular tension are established. Tension is not only seen between the “miraculous birth” and the children skating, but also through the “dreadful martyrdom” and the animals at the event (6, 10). Metaphors are established to which the children and animals represent the “real” world, while the “aged” at the birth and the “torturer” at the martyrdom represent those who are absorbed into the world of the miraculous (5, 12). The same type of tension appears in the last stanza and can be seen between the ploughman and the ship, which represent the “real” world, and Icarus, who himself is the miraculous aspect. The conflict of human experience is revealed through these tensions: while one person suffers, others carry on untroubled in the “real”
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