In “Musée des Beaux Arts”, WH Auden crafted a description readers never forget of Brueghel’s painting of the fall of Icarus. All Brueghel shows of Icarus is a small pair of thrashing legs disappearing into a vast sea. Farmers on a clifftop carry on ploughing the fields and watching their sheep as if nothing has happened. A ship sails by the drowning hero, its crew unaware of Icarus’s suffering. In Brueghel’s vision of tragedy, says Auden:
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.
Nearly everyone who is not directly suffering from the crisis is a ploughman today. We keep our eyes down. We concentrate on our work. We behave as if times were normal or, if we cannot manage that pretence, we behave as if times will soon return to normal. In the still rich regions of Britain, the pubs and bars are full of Christmas drinkers…
Carry on reading