Punctuation Makes Meaning

What I'm going to suggest here is probably a horrible thing to do to a perfectly lovely poem, on the one hand; but, on the other, it is, perhaps, a way of explicating it and, at the same time, illustrating how we use punctuation to make meaning.  William Carlos Williams, a 20th Century American poet (and physician) wrote a moving and descriptive poem that captures the essentially existential message embodied in the painting "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus," a work completed circa 1558 by the Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525?-1569).

Williams punctuates the poem only by use of a few capital letters, an apostrophe to indicate possession, and by the arrangement of the lines.  However, formatted and punctuated differently, the poem could be used as a descriptive caption under a reprint of the painting in an art history book.  And that's what I'd like you and a couple partners to do, so form into groups of three.

First, it would help to know something about the Icarus myth. In ancient times, maybe 3000 years ago, Daedalus, an engineer and inventor, was imprisoned by the King of Crete along with his son Icarus in a maze designed by Daedalus himiself to be excape-proof. The King did not want Daedalus to go to work for other kings, so that is why he put Daedalus and his son in Daedalus own escape-proof maze.imprisoned. daedalus fashioned wings. Daedalus though of an escape, however, and fashioned wings from bird feathers held toghether by beeswax so that he and Icarus could fly out of the maze. However, Icarus did not heed his father's warning about flying too close to the sun god Helios or the water god Poseidon. while flying too close to the sun (i.e., the sun god, Helios) the wax melted on the wings of Icarus and Icarus plummets into the sea, drowning. Here is a somewhat more thorough description of the Icarus story: Daedalus and his son Icarus. in the ancient world it was a story that warned against "hubris" which means (in the ancient context of the word) putting oneself on the same level of the gods, a huge sin for mere mortals.

Once familiar with the myth, come back to this page and study Bruegel's painting below;  contemplate what the painting says about the nature of myths in the everyday world.

On a "Microsoft Word" document with your names at the top, answer these two questions:

1. (In one sentence.) What does this painting by Brueghel say about the nature of myths in the everyday world?
2. Highlight the text of the poem, and click the copy command from the edit menu on your browser.  Then paste the poem into your Word document.  Without rewording it in any way, reformat the poem into prose sentences and punctuate them correctly so that it describes the painting and conveys its meaning. Please double space the whole document and turn it in during class. This is a group project and everyone in your group will get the same grade for it, so make sure you do your homework and participate in the discusion.

When each group is finished, then compare your answers with the other groups and stay with it until everyone is in agreement that there are NO punctuation or sentence boundary errors in your reconstruction of the poem. Use the Proofreading and editing links on the editing checklist of the Guide to Grammar and Writing.

"Landscape with the Fall of Icarus"
by William Carlos Williams

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Read some other wonderful poems about the painting by Bruegel or about the Icarus myth

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