Friday, March 4, 2011

A little De/composition

I bought the book "De/compositions" by W.D. Snodgrass (ISBN 1-55597-317-5) at a convention back in 2003.  I am glad I still have it after all I have been through and that I had the author sign it for me.  I have read many of the poems I had never read before and Snodgrass' de/compositions of these famous works.

Here is one of those de/compositions; a de/composed version of Musée des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden

Musée des Mals Arts

How well they comprehended, the Old Masters,
The situation of Mankind's disasters,
Which come to pass while others eat and talk,
How when the old are reverently waiting 
For Jesus' birth, there must be children skating
Upon a pond beside a frozen wood - 
Children who thought the change might not be good.
Further, Old Masters always understood
That martyrdom and torture like as not
Take place in some ill-lighted, cluttered spot
Where beasts endure their troubles, try to ease
Their ills and quite ignore men's agonies.

In Brueghel's Icarus, all things turn away
From the catastrophe: The ploughman may
Have heard the splash and the forsaken cry
But didn't really care; the sun on high
Still lit those legs that fell into the green
Bay water while the ship that must have seen -
How strange!  a person plunging from the sky -
Needing to get someplace, sailed calmly by.

The original by W. H. Auden

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 Breughel'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.

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