Icarus Poem By Edward Field Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English


Icarus from Greek mythology is brought into the contemporary world in Edward Field’s poem “Icarus.” Alliteration and anachronism are used in the poem to highlight the themes of dislocation and isolation. Field, a novelist, and poet from the United States served in the US Air Force during World War II.

This knowledge is essential for understanding the poem since Icarus is portrayed as a soldier coming from battle, and the poem will be interpreted through the lens of war. The dislocation and alienation that a military hero experiences while attempting to fit into society normally will be compared in this reading.

About the poet

Edward Field, who was raised in Brooklyn, New York, graduated with a BA from New York University. During World War II, he served in the US Air Force. Along with Stand Up, Friend, With Me (1962), Variety Photoplays (1967), Eskimo Songs and Stories (1973), Stars in My Eyes (1979), A Full Heart (1981), Magic Words (1997), and After the Fall: Poems Old and New (2007), he has also written several more volumes.

In addition to numerous honors, he received an Academy Award for his narration work on the 1965 documentary To Be Alive. He taught at Sarah Lawrence College and Hofstra University while residing in New York City.

Stanza 1

Only the feathers floating around the hat
Showed that anything more spectacular had occurred
Than the usual drowning. The police preferred to ignore
The confusing aspects of the case,
And the witnesses ran off to a gang war.
So the report filed and forgotten in the archives read simply
“Drowned,” but it was wrong: Icarus
Had swum away, coming at last to the city
Where he rented a house and tended the garden.

Edward Field’s poem “Icarus” uses the alliteration “feathers floating” to highlight the feathers. Modernity is also conjured up when cops and gang conflict are mentioned. The feathers on the water represent the flotsam of airplane wreckage, while Icarus striking the water represents a wrecked aircraft.

The last few words of the first verse depict Icarus escaping the water’s edge and landing in the city, where he leases a home. Icarus is brought from legend by Field via anachronism, who then displaces him into the present. This displacement reflects the displacement experienced while placing the mythical character Icarus in a contemporary setting, and such a displacement creates alienation.

Stanza 2

“That nice Mr. Hicks” the neighbors called,
Never dreaming that the gray, respectable suit
Concealed arms that had controlled huge wings
Nor that those sad, defeated eyes had once
Compelled the sun. And had he told them
They would have answered with a shocked,
uncomprehending stare.
No, he could not disturb their neat front yards;
Yet all his books insisted that this was a horrible mistake:
What was he doing aging in a suburb?
Can the genius of the hero fall
To the middling stature of the merely talented?

Icarus is a fallen fighter pilot who is estranged from others because of how he appears to be something he is not. His ability to manage enormous wings sets him apart from ordinary humans, and the battle interpretation makes sense given the context. Icarus’ estrangement is made worse by the knowledge that if he had informed them, they would have responded with a stunned, bewildered look.

This is readily tied to combat since people may be shocked when a soldier describes the conflict, but they will never be able to comprehend it. Icarus won’t annoy the residents with combat stories, but he will wonder why he is growing old in a suburb. Another question that Field uses to round out the second stanza refers to the challenges troops have after serving their country.

Stanza 3

And nightly Icarus probes his wound
And daily in his workshop, curtains carefully drawn,
Constructs small wings and tries to fly
To the lighting fixture on the ceiling:
Fails every time and hates himself for trying.
He had thought himself a hero, had acted heroically,
And dreamt of his fall, the tragic fall of the hero;
But now rides commuter trains,
Serves on various committees,
And wishes he had drowned.

Icarus, the protagonist of the poem “Icarus,” is a hero who feels cut off from society and has death-related nightmares. He feels unappreciated as a hero and wishes he had perished in battle. He wants to die like the Greek hero Icarus. The word “wound” in the first sentence may refer to a psychological or bodily wound sustained during combat.

The next four sentences refer to attempting to achieve previously unattainable heights. The estrangement is intensified in the final five lines, which also have an impact on Icarus, who dreams of a hero’s demise and wishes he had perished in battle.