Thursday, February 5, 2009

Icarus: "We're going to be in the Mediterranean"


I've been listening to the Sullenberger tapes -- the flight controller recordings from the US Air 1539, plane that went down in the Hudson -- and they are riveting. If you haven't heard them yet, listen in here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100280783.

The incident again and again made me think of Auden's "Musee des Beaux-Arts," so here it is, a little early, for Poetry Friday. Certainly I was at my office, walking dully along, when the plane went down a few blocks away.

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking
.......................................dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and 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.

-W.H. Auden (December 1938)


2 comments:

beth said...

Those recordings are...powerful. Heard some of them on the way to work today, and when the captain says, "Can't do it. We'll be in the Hudson." Oh...wow...

Colorado Writer said...

I am struck by how calm the pilot seems to be.