Nature’s Prominence

Anthony Van Dyck, “Self Portrait as Icarus with Daedalus”

Nature’s Prominence

By Imaan Ansari and Caroline Pantzer


Artists’ Statement

We prepared a poem centered around the myth of Daedalus and Icarus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We focused on the phrase, “nātūram novat,” meaning “he altered nature,” and explored how Daedalus’ desire to alter nature affected both characters throughout the story. Daedalus yearns to be a master craftsman, overstepping his status as a mortal to create wings for his son Icarus, who ultimately “flies too close to the sun” and dies. In our poem, we retell the story of Daedalus and Icarus, displaying how “nātūram novat” becomes incorporated into their journey. Daedalus’ desire to change nature ultimately leads to the death of his son, which changes his life and his perspective on the attempt. Ovid stops referring to Daedalus as a father, emphasizing the negative effects of playing God, attempting to conquer something greater than oneself. Daedalus was unable to “nātūram novat;” his son’s death emphasizes how Daedalus’ hubris was defeated by the power of nature.

We maintain a rhyme scheme of couplets throughout the poem, except in the line “Daedalus is stripped of the title, ‘pater,’” because the meaning of the line, that Daedalus is no longer regarded by Ovid to be worthy of fatherhood, leaves the title of “pater” to no one within the story. Thus, we chose to isolate the line to emphasize Daedalus’ loneliness after his son’s dea th. We decided to retell the poem through the lens of “nātūram novat” because this phrase highlights Daedalus’ fatal flaw: believing that he can not only be a “master craftsman” but also can rival God with his craft. We portray Daedalus with increasingly less agency as the poem progresses; at the beginning, we employ the verb “construct” (5) in the active voice to demonstrate the height of his hubris in attempting to build wings for Icarus.  In line 17, we frame Daedalus’ fall from fatherhood in the passive voice, saying that he “is stripped of the title ‘pater.’” The repetition of the central couplet (1-2, 22-23) shows the inevitability of Daedalus’ downfall.



“Nātūram novat,” first above all,

Daedalus’ dream, which becomes his downfall.


Hating Crete and the long exile, his desperation took over.1

And Daedalus, playing God, looks to Icarus with composure.

Using unfamiliar arts, attempting to flee, Daedalus constructs wings,

Thinking that they will guide Icarus and him to all good things.

However, instead of altering nature, Daedalus and Icarus experience pain,

Without knowing Icarus’s immaturity, Daedalus faces the shame.

Daedalus with his feather interlaying

Becomes impaired by Icarus and his destructive playing.

Later followed by more unfortunate actions,

Twisting their fate and their familial attractions.

Leading to a trip too close to the sun

Where Icarus dies, and Daedalus loses his loved one.

According to Ovid, he loses more,2

On account of Icarus’s inability to soar:


Daedalus is stripped of the title, “pater.”


For his hope to change nature went wrong,

Because young Icarus could not play along.

Daedalus did not become a God through his far fetched plan,

And of course nature still overrode this craftsman.


“Nātūram novat,” first above all,

Daedalus’ dream, which becomes his downfall.


Imaan Ansari and Caroline Pantzer are juniors at Trinity School in New York City.



  1.  Ovid, Metamorphoses, 8.183-185.
  2.  Ibid, 8.230-232.