Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Eagle
By John Neal (1793–1876)
      *      *      *    The Bird that laves
THERE’S a fierce gray bird—with a sharpen’d beak;
With an angry eye, and a startling shriek:
That nurses her brood where the cliff-flowers blow,
On the precipice-top—in perpetual snow—
Where the fountains are mute, or in secrecy flow—        5
That sits—where the air is shrill and bleak,
On the splinter’d point of a shiver’d peak—
Where the weeds lie close—and the grass sings sharp,
To a comfortless tune—like a wintry harp—
Bald-headed and stripp’d!—like a vulture torn        10
In wind and strife!—with her feathers worn,
And ruffled and stain’d—while scattering—bright,
Round her serpent-neck—that is writhing, bare—
Is a crimson collar of gleaming hair!—
Like the crest of a warrior thinn’d in the fight,        15
And shorn—and bristling—see her! where
She sits in the glow of the sun-bright air!
  With wing half-poised—and talons bleeding—
    And kindling eye—as if her prey
    Had—suddenly—been snatch’d away—        20
  While she was tearing it, and feeding!
A Bird that is first to worship the sun,
When he gallops in flame—’t ill the cloud tides run
In billows of fire—as his course is done:
Above where the fountain is gushing in light;        25
Above where the torrent is forth in its might—
Like an imprison’d blaze that is bursting from night!
  Or a lion that springs—with a roar—from his lair!
Bounding off—all in foam—from the echoing height—
Like a rank of young war-horses—terribly bright,        30
Their manes all erect!—and their hoofs in the air!
The earth shaking under them—trumpets on high—
And banners unfurling away in the sky—
  With the neighing of steeds! and the streaming of hair
Above where the silvery flashing is seen—        35
The striping of waters, that skip o’er the green,
And soft, spongy moss, where the fairies have been,
Bending lovely and bright in the young Morning’s eye
Like ribands of flame—or the bow of the sky:
Above that dark torrent—above the bright stream—        40
The gay ruddy fount, with the changeable gleam,
Where the lustre of heaven eternally plays—
The voice may be heard—of the thunderer’s bird,
Calling out to her god in a clear, wild scream,
As she mounts to his throne, and unfolds in his beam;        45
  While her young are laid out in his rich red blaze;
  And their winglets are fledged in his hottest rays:
Proud bird of the cliff! where the barren-yew springs—
Where the sunshine stays—and the wind-harp sings,
Where the heralds of battle sit—pluming their wings—        50
A scream! she ’s awake!—over hill-top and flood,
A crimson light runs!—like the gushing of blood—
Over valley and rock!—over mountain and wood
That bird is abroad—in the van of her brood!
*      *      *      *      *
Her sounding pinions in the sun’s first gush—        55
Drinks his meridian blaze and sunset flush:
Worships her idol in his fiercest hour:
Bathes her full bosom in his hottest shower:
Sits amid stirring stars, and bends her beak,
Like the slipp’d falcon—when her piercing shriek        60
Tells that she stoops upon her cleaving wing,
To drink anew some victim’s clear-red spring.
That monarch Bird! that slumbers in the night
Upon the lofty air-peak’s utmost height:
Or sleeps upon the wing—amid the ray        65
Of steady—cloudless—everlasting day!
Rides with the Thunderer in his blazing march:
And bears his lightnings o’er yon boundless arch.
Soars wheeling through the storm, and screams away
Where the young pinions of the morning play.        70

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