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Word Art: Icarus Speaks of His Fall From the Heavens

I’m doing this all wrong, aren’t I?  I should have worked my way through the Astronomy Series, maybe even a planet a day and then gone on to the rest of my art box.  But instead I go off and get all excited about this one piece I just finished yesterday and decide to do a blog post about that instead.

This was an idea I had bapping around in my head for a rather long time but had never got around to actually writing down until I decided to render it in Word Art form.  (This happens a lot to ideas I have–they seem to not come into their own until I find the right ‘container’ for them.  A couple of short story ideas of mine eventually blossomed into novels, for example.)  I’m probably not the first to have suggested that Icarus flew too close to the sun not out of ignorance, but as a deliberate choice.

Icarus Speaks of His Fall From the Heavens

Icarus Speaks of His Fall From the Heavens

They tell you in school that I was too dazzled by the sun to hear the voice of my father, as he called me to come down, not to fly too high, lest the sun burn the wax from the wings that he had built for us.

This is only partially true.

Indeed it is true that I was dazzled by the sun.

I was dazzled by all of it–by the wind, the air, the infinite skies and the sea as its surface was a mirror to the sun.

I saw clouds from the sky as I looked down upon them.

I saw so much.

It was not that I had not heard my father’s voice.

It was that I had chosen to ignore it.

What life would I have had to go back to after all that I had seen?

I had ascended to the havens of the gods, felt the breath of the sun chariot’s horses on my back.

To return to Earth and watch my father putter and tinker with some new invention was intolerable to me.

I had seen so many of the monstrous and terrible things my father had wrought with his technology.

We would not have been shut into the Labyrinth if he had not given Ariadne the clew in order to solve the puzzle of it.

He wouldn’t have needed to design and to build the Labyrinth had he not built the wooden cow that allowed Queen Pasiphae to satisfy her lusts for the bull sent by Poseidon and thus to give birth to the Minotaur.

And had he not murdered his apprentice, my cousin Talos, for fear that his talents would soon surpass those of my father, we would not have been exiled from Athens and ended up in service of the court of King Minos to begin with.

There was no home for us to return to.

Even if he were to be forgiven the death of Talos, the blood of all those youths of Athens, who had been sent into the Labyrinth in sacrifice to the Minotaur, was still upon his hands.

Even the wings on our backs which bore us were made from the feathers of birds that had been sacrificed to the beast in between full moons.

I’d gather those feathers as my father put them together to buy freedom for us and now that I had the air surrounding me, I didn’t want anything else.

I knew that I was doomed to fall.

I knew that well.

I had seen the blood of the youths of Athens as they had been slaughtered.

The stains still were upon the walls of the Labyrinth as I gathered the feathers for our wings.

I knew too well how cruel and sudden death could be, and how the bonds of ancestry or even family had no protection to provide.

I decided that I did not even want death in a withered body, confined to a bed, struggling to remember the brilliant moment I was immersed in.

I chose to rush into the arms of death while my life was at its peak, and not to let it slope down gradually like a fire burning on down to the embers.

I have watched from the other side of the Styx as many of you have made the same choices as you soared to strange heights on wings of your own, wings that brought you to the realms of the gods and showed you all, but wings that were just as fragile if you stayed too long.

They told you in school that I screamed in terror as I fell from the sky into the depths of the ocean.

Oh, no.  I did not scream.  I laughed.

Before you congratulate me on my knowledge of Greek myth, I should clarify that I myself knew only the basics of the story of Daedelus and Icarus until the Internet was kind enough to tell me the rest.  I am particularly indebted to the University of Virginia Library for hosting a translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses that provided an index and hyperlinks.  Those details alone were enough to take up most of the allotted space and the comparisons between the flight of Icarus and of those who seek a different way to fly were reduced to an afterthought, which I’m actually quite fine with.  This was, I think, the first Word Art piece I’ve done where I did the radical idea of drafting the words out first before committing them to artwork.  There were, obviously, some shifts between the draft and the final, as the right word or turn of phrase would need to be shortened or lengthened to fit the space.  It also allowed me to cut lines that I decided didn’t quite fit before I’d permanently committed to them.

The image is a very sloppy homage to Henri Matisse.  Doing an exact copy of his own Icarus would have been pushing it, I think.  My first attempt had the ‘feathers’ drawn too narrowly to be distinct from the usual spaces between words so I set it aside and began anew about an inch and a half into it.  It definitely gave me some more insights into what works and what doesn’t in terms of words and white space.

Prints of this work are available here.

The original is not for sale.

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