What is the “miraculous birth”

ength: 3-5 pages

Writing this essay consists of three steps:

1. Writing a paragraph about a work of art;

2. Writing two paragraphs about a poem based on that work of art;

3. Writing an essay that places these three paragraphs in the body and provides an introduction and conclusion.

1. Writing about a work of art


This paragraph will involve you in close analysis of Pieter Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.”

First make two lists: one will consist of your observations of the details—that is, what you see in the painting. This list should avoid interpretations.

The second list will state your thoughts about these observations. What do you think about the central figure? Who is he and what is he doing? What thoughts do you have about other figures and details of the painting?

After composing these two lists, write your main idea about the painting. This will be your first sentence (topic sentence) of your paragraph.

Before you continue, form an organizational strategy for your description. You may begin with the most eye-attracting details, for instance (such as the plowman in “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” or the sky in “Starry Night”), and then proceed to describe other details of the painting in orderly fashion (from most important to least important, from left to right, from foreground to background, etc.).

Once you have decided on an organizational pattern, continue to write your description, stating your observations and your ideas.

Once you have completed this analysis, write a concluding sentence (clincher sentence) that returns to your main idea without simply restating your first sentence.

2. Writing about a poem based on a work of art

This part of the assignment will involve you in close analysis of W. H. Auden’s poem “Musée des Beaux Arts,” which draws upon Pieter Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” for inspiration. You should write two paragraphs, one on each stanza.

Musée des Beaux Arts, by W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters; how well, they understood Its human position; how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting For the miraculous birth, there always must be Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating On a pond at the edge of the wood: They never forgot That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

First make two lists about the first stanza: one will consist of your observations of the details—that is, what images, sounds, and words that draw your attention. This list should avoid interpretations.

The second list will state your thoughts about your observations. For example, who do you think are the “Old Masters”? What is the “miraculous birth”? What is the poet saying about the painting?

After composing these two lists, write your main idea about the stanza. This will be your first sentence of this paragraph.

You should organize your analysis of the poem by following the poem’s organization, writing a short paragraph about each stanza.

Your analysis should consist of observations and thoughts about them.

Be sure to quote the poem, indicating line numbers in parentheses. For example,

Auden stresses the un importance of the fall when he states that “the plough man may / Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry” (15-16).

Once you have completed this analysis, write a concluding sentence that returns to your main idea without simply restating your first sentence.

3. Writing a Comparison-Contrast Essay

This essay allows you to combine your analyses of a painting and poem in a lengthy essay.

Your introductory paragraph will state the names of the artist and poet along with the titles of their works. You will give a brief explanation of each and end your introduction with a statement of your thesis, which should explain how the poet responds to the painting.

The body of your essay will consist of your analyses of the painting and poem. The first half, stating your observations and thoughts about the painting, may closely resemble your first short paper. The second half, in which you analyze the poem, will need to be rewritten so that you are focusing on the poet’s response to the painting.

The final step consists of writing a conclusion. Generally you should return to your thesis and develop it. You should not repeat your thesis verbatim, nor should you merely summarize your paper. You may wish to develop ideas about the relationship between art and poetry in general. Or you may wish to relate your thesis to present-day issues or personal concerns. Conclusions often place the thesis in the larger context of abstract ideas. You may want to write a rough draft, show it to a tutor or teacher, and rewrite it.


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