Serpentine Fall


The passers-by at the Serpentine may not even have remarked on the event other than to recount it as humorous. A man rides his bicycle in the lake-splash. In the busy bustle of everyday metropolitan life where the individual struggles to assert radical autonomy, Auden’s poem about Icarus’s fall identifies the stark vulnerability of an event that begins with hope and ends in despair. Auden’s account takes us to the core of the moment of simultaneity when there are both possible and impossible events taking place, a boy flies in the sky, the terrestrial being becomes aerial. He says that though the bystanders may have heard the splash and ‘the forsaken cry’, for them ‘it was not an important failure’.


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