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.

First, it would help to know something about the Icarus myth, so take the following link to Thomas Bulfinch's Mythology web site and scroll down about half way to find out about Daedalus and his son Icarus. (Here's another short description of the Icarus myth to read.)

After you are 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, 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, refomat 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 place it in my mailbox in room 852, Templin Hall at the end of class. This is a group project and everyone in your group will get the same credit for it, so make sure you follow the instructions and participate in the discusion and preparation of the exercise.

"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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