(Part 1 because I’ll probably write more about this, someday …)
I think about this painting a lot – it’s Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, though probably not original – and was reminded of it again this morning when Helena Fitzgerald wrote about it for her griefbacon missive (and what a strange and wondrous writer she is, completely her own creature and able to provoke my NYC nostalgia in a way no one else does). Too, I think that’s why I gravitated towards the alchemical notion of as above, so below – not just in the sense of the heavenly and the mundane, but in terms of class, and lives lived. How people mimic each other, how people live aspirationally, how small dramas can be as powerful as the epics that overshadow them. Here in this painting we have all these lives with their own dramas and triumphs and failures. Here is the farmer and the shepherd and the fisherman, and the ships with their crews and captains and goods, and the city beyond teeming with people, so many people, each on their own trajectory through time – and here is a single splash which will eclipse all around it. They say history is written by the victors (and here’s an informative look at the origins of that saying), but too often so is fiction. I think that’s part of why multi-POV epics are so appealing to me: they create space for the farmer to speak, however briefly, and remind us that he too existed.