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Landscape with the Fall of Icarus Summary & Analysis
by William Carlos Williams

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"Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" is a poem by one of the foremost figures of 20th-century American poetry, William Carlos Williams, first published in Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems in 1962. The poem is a work of ekphrasis—writing about a piece of visual art—and is part of a cycle of 10 poems inspired by the paintings of 16th-century artist Pieter Bruegel (or Brueghel) the Elder. Both Bruegel's painting and this poem depict the death of Icarus, the mythological figure who died after flying too close to the sun, in a rather unusual way: in both works, Icarus's death—caused by a fall from the sky after the wax holding his artificial wings together melted—is hardly a blip on the radar of the nearby townspeople, whose attention is turned instead toward the rhythms of daily life. Tragedy is thus presented as a question of perspective, something that depends on how close one is (literally and emotionally) to the event in question.

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