... Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus depicts the Icarus story as described in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, which mentions a fisherman, peasant at his plough, and a shepherd – but from the perspective of the proverb. In the words of Auden’s poem, this is the human position: suffering takes place ‘While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along’.
The fisherman casts his line as Icarus, legs thrashing, drowns in the bay beyond. In the foreground, seemingly unaware, the ploughman ploughs his furrow, In the field beyond, the shepherd tends his flock, gazing in the opposite direction to the tragedy:
…everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster …
the white legs disappearing into the green.
The landscape in which these three people go about their business while Icarus drowns is significant, too. Bruegel renders the four humans as being almost...