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1: Answer Key (p. 135)

  1. This poem is about the way life is. Great life-changing events happen to some people, while at the same time others are preoccupied with everyday life and the ordinary. The “Old Masters” understood this and painted the different aspects side by side in the same scene.
  2. The lines 4-8 describe a scene where some old people “aged” are waiting for the birth of Christ while others are eating, walking along, opening a window, or skating. Lines 12–20: dogs living dog‘s lives, the horse of a torturer scratches its behind, the ploughman looks the other way, a ship sails on.
  3. Have the students draw their own paintings. It is thought that Auden not only describes Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, but several other paintings by Breughel. Before or after students draw, you might want to talk a little about Breughel and his style of painting. He very often depicts busy scenes with people from all walks of life, busy living. You can find more information about Breughel here at the Webmuseum.
  4. Students will suggest different ways to achieve rhyme and rhythm, here are some:
    • Alliteration (repeating the same consonant sounds)
    • Assonance (repeating the same vowel sounds)
    • Varying line lengths
    • Some lines do rhyme: wrong/along/, shone/ on, understood/wood, wating/skating, forgot/spot, course/horse, away/may/cy, green/seen. Not all the rhymes are perfect rhymes, some are half-rhymes or even eye rhymes.

Research and Discover

Ekphrasis Assignment
Ekphrasis means writing about art. This is what Auden and several others do with Breughel’s painting. Send your students off on a virtual tour of an art gallery to find their own painting and write about it.

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