Several weeks ago, in a post entitled It’s easier to be heard in a crowd, the Free Exchange blog writes:

BRUEGEL is a European economics think thank that has just launched a blog. It’s a very nice blog, as it happens; click here for a nice roundup of European views on the new fiscal compact. One of the things I appreciate about the blog is its authors’ awareness that the room in which they’re shouting is strikingly empty. In a post entitled Europeans can’t blog, Jérémie Cohen-Setton, Martin Kessler, and Shahin Vallée write:

Actually, what they write doesn’t have anything to with this post but the name of their blog does. Hat tip: Doug Pascover’s comment…

Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

“I wonder how many regulars on this blog followed a link from some other. The funny thing is, I follow links a lot less than I used to but I found the blogs I enjoy just that way. I’ll try to remember to go read BREUGEL, particularly because I like the name. I wonder if they had this in mind. Or maybe this.”

Both links are to works by Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who is known for his landscapes and peasant scenes. The first link is Babel Tower; the second is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, a painting, a poem and the subject of this post. 

“Pictures from Bruegel and Other Poems” (1962) by poet William Carlos Williams opens with a cycle of ten poems (the last poem is in three parts), each based on a Brueghel picture.

William posthumously won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his book. He died on March 4th, 1963.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Pieter Bruegel (c. 1568) Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium


According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning


April Fool’s: The “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” is long thought to be by Pieter Bruegel, although following technical examinations in 1996, that attribution is regarded as very doubtful, and it is now seen as a good early copy by an unknown artist of Bruegel’s original, perhaps painted in the 1560s.