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The Myth of Icarus Generally, the gods in Greek

Generally, the gods in Greek mythology are portrayed as human in form and in character. However, as Morford & Lenardon state, although they may look and act like men, "very often their appearance and their actions are at least to some extent idealized" (73). This means that their beauty usually appears as beyond that of ordinary mortals, their passions are grander and more intense, and their feelings more praiseworthy and touching (Morford & Lenardon 73). Nonetheless, Morford & Lenardon observe that these gods, who can often "embody and impose the loftiest moral values in the universe," also can mirror the physical and spiritual weakness of their human counterparts (73). They can be crippled or deformed, and vain, petty, and insincere. They can steal, lie, and cheat, "sometimes with a finesse that is exquisitely divine" (Morford & Lenardon 73). This ability to portray within the same god the loftiest ideal and the most base character is evident in poems that utilize Greek mythology. Specifically, this paper will look at the use of the myth of Icarus in W. H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts" and Edward Field's "Icarus." It will conclude that in these poems the poet uses the conflicting motif of the fallen hero to discuss human suffering.

According to Greek myth, Icarus was the son of Daedalus. Daedalus was an inventor and craftsman employed by Minos, the king of Crete, to design an build a labyrinth (Roberts & Jacobs 830). The labyrinth was intended to imprison the Minotaur, a half-man half-beast creature. However, after Daedalus built the labyrinth, he helped Theseus to kill the Minotaur and thereby free Athens from its required yearly human sacrifice to the Minotaur. Minos punished Daedalus by imprisoning him and Icarus in a tower and posting permanent guards on all roads and at the seaport to prevent their escape (Roberts & Jacobs 830). Their only route of escape was by air. So Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings m...

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