Language use and human communication as two interrelated aspects compose the foundation of human interactions, with greater understanding, dissemination and uptake of information being pertinent to established social order and security. Poetry, as an art, entails the enriched and symbolic utility of poetic language and techniques, from thematic articulation, epic symbolism, compare and contrast, flashback, rhetorical analysis, allegory, to elegy, dramatic monologue, conflict, ballad, foreshadowing, exposition and prose amongst others. As a literary art, poetry’s utility of rhythmic and aesthetic language qualities, enables the greater evocation of meaning, in place of, or addition to, establishing the inherent prosaic meanings within such a text.


As exemplified in Auden, W. H (1938) piece – Musée des Beaux Arts – it portrays the sad universal truth that human suffering is a pertinent aspect of social existence and order, exemplified symbolically throughout the text’s divergent scenarios. Through comparison, he shows the existence of human suffering, from time immemorial, by opinionating the old master’s knowledge and understanding of this human/ social aspect. From a human perspective and the resultant unfolding of events, the aspect of exposition is utilized by way of initiating the overall plot, with some essential background information being provided on the aspect of human suffering. Through dialogue, the speaker fills in the pertinent audience on the events surrounding the development of the gist (Fussell 12).

By way of allegory, the speaker provides deeper meaning through implied surface details, with the narrative entailing a set of characters representing existent human moral qualities. By acknowledging human suffering as a necessary human context, he contrasts the implicit occurrence, in the presence of coexisting social tranquility as is elucidated in lines 3 and 4: “Its human position: how it takes place; While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along” (Stanza 1, line 3, 4). This provides the targeted audience with the feeling of continuity and correlated interaction, where human beings experience different situations at given times. This is enhanced further through the aspect of compare and contrast, with human suffering being equated to the sure nature of natural human birth.

From time past, the speaker shows the fact that just as human life is awaited through symbolic birth, so is the aspect of human suffering, which pertinently affects all human beings, the different social contexts notwithstanding. As lines 9 and 10 showcase, all human beings, from early in their childhood, do acknowledge the existence of the dreadful aspect of continuous suffering. Thus, the aspect of epic symbolism is showed in the two lines “They never forgot; That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course” (Stanza 1, line 9, 10). In this case, however, Breughel’s main character – Icarus – though being epic in character and life case scenario, is inevitably cast into the annals of history, with but little consideration.

This case scenario provides allegory by way of displaying an extra-ordinary event or occurrence, which though being rare, is instead ignored due to existent social contexts as showcased in the narrative’s characterization. As such, the ploughman is busy eking a living to be bothered much by the forsaken cry/ shout of help, after a splash in the ocean/sea. Through characterization, inert human traits are brought fourth, with reference to the existent prevailing contexts, with the farmer being weighed down by the need to get a better harvest while the delicate expensive ship making its way calmly away from the suffering soul.

Diction is figuratively utilized by way of word selection, with these forming a central and hence important element of the work. Words are symbolically used to reveal the characters’ traits, suggested values and identifiable themes, through conveying action present throughout the text. As such, this may be achieved by way of individual or group interaction, with reference to the characters present within a text. Rhetorical analysis is utilized through the text, where language play provides a sense of existing social contexts. As is provided in “Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating; On a pond at the edge of the wood” (Stanza 1, line 7, 8), the speaker provides a view of coexisting joy and happiness, with the err characterization of the forests edge.

Falling action as a technique is exemplified by way of the character Icarus, who is symbolized as falling out of the sky, which in the contexts of the narrative, is an unfathomed act. However, it is rhetorical that those who do witness this consider it as an unimportant event, which necessarily does not warrant much thought or action. Figurative language is entailed also by way of conveying more in a given text than the literal meaning intended. As such, the ploughman views the above episode of ‘a falling Icarus’ as an unimportant failure, symbolically showing the level of human suffering he is purported to have undergone through, weighed down by its effects as to offer a helping hand to another suffering soul.

Through all the above, the speaker portrays both image and imagery, where there is concrete representation of exemplified sense of impressions, ideas or feelings. There is a multiple utility of the above, with different characters appearing at various critical points in the unfolding plot. This is brought forth as aforementioned in lines 7 and 8, where the children go about their day skating while displaying the fear of experiencing human suffering. Through imagery, the speaker shows the wisdom of the old generations, who were wise enough to understand its social place and necessity, just as childbirth and resultant nurturing of human life (Fussell 34).

Irony, where a speaker contrasts the existent discrepancies between that which is said, and the resultant meaning/ action executed are also exemplified throughout the text. Specifically, it is the speaker’s usage of irony of situation/ circumstance is showcased in lines 15 through 17, where the ploughman, himself being a victim to the aforementioned reacts in a manner that is opposite of what is expected in normal circumstances. As such, this is showed through the phrases “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” (Stanza 2, line 1-4). As a narrative poem, the speaker tries to portray a story that is commonly experienced in various facets of society, through the eyes of various characters within the narrative.

Metaphor as a technique is utilized, with a comparison being made between the inevitable aspect of human suffering, to that of human birth and the eventual nurturing of human life. Personification is also showcased, with lines 12 and 13 providing the endowment of abstract conceptions with living qualities. Satire is also utilized when the literary work displays an overall criticism of the above human follies, such as the luxury ship’s ignorance of the victim Icarus, especially when he was facing grave danger, by way of drowning. The setting or situational contexts as a technique, is also utilized effectively, comparing and contrasting various perspectives, with reference to the twin aspects of human endeavor and suffering (Fussell 54).

In conclusion, the poet enriches the text, which though short in length, provides various pertinent aspects of the existing social contexts and situations as experienced by various people, both in individual and group contexts. By way of utility of poetic style, language and technique, various aspects are symbolically showcased in light of other existent social contexts.

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