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Poetry

The Fall of Icarus

By Joseba Sarrionandia
Translated from Basque by Amaia Gabantxo
Listen to Joseba Sarrionaindia read "The Fall of Icarus" in the original Basque.
 
 

If I had to choose a poem it’d be by W.H. Auden,

the one called Musée des Beaux Arts,

which mentions Pieter Brueghel’s The Fall of Icarus,

where Icarus is but a tiny almost invisible figure

falling into the sea. The old masters understood suffering well,

says W.H. Auden,

how it takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window

or just walking dully along.

Everything turns away, walks away quite leisurely,

oblivious, practically, to the disaster.

The pain of someone’s life almost never touches someone else.

Almost no one cares for the wounds of others.

The English poem references a Flemish painting,

the Flemish painting a Greek myth and

the Greek myth who knows what: I’m by the window waiting

for Icarus to fall.

I’d get a good view from here, as the clouds float northward

soft, docile, without a care in the world.

If he falls, his wings will hit the antennae on the roofs,

there’s danger in those power lines too.

If we were to join in everyone’s suffering

life would be impossible,

but I’m waiting for Icarus and I’m gonna help,

I’ll collect the pieces of his broken wings,

and give him shelter, when he falls the way I fell,

like a chicken.

 

© Joseba Sarrionaindia. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2017 by Amaia Gabantxo. All rights reserved.

English

If I had to choose a poem it’d be by W.H. Auden,

the one called Musée des Beaux Arts,

which mentions Pieter Brueghel’s The Fall of Icarus,

where Icarus is but a tiny almost invisible figure

falling into the sea. The old masters understood suffering well,

says W.H. Auden,

how it takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window

or just walking dully along.

Everything turns away, walks away quite leisurely,

oblivious, practically, to the disaster.

The pain of someone’s life almost never touches someone else.

Almost no one cares for the wounds of others.

The English poem references a Flemish painting,

the Flemish painting a Greek myth and

the Greek myth who knows what: I’m by the window waiting

for Icarus to fall.

I’d get a good view from here, as the clouds float northward

soft, docile, without a care in the world.

If he falls, his wings will hit the antennae on the roofs,

there’s danger in those power lines too.

If we were to join in everyone’s suffering

life would be impossible,

but I’m waiting for Icarus and I’m gonna help,

I’ll collect the pieces of his broken wings,

and give him shelter, when he falls the way I fell,

like a chicken.

 

© Joseba Sarrionaindia. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2017 by Amaia Gabantxo. All rights reserved.

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