With sharp and questioning eyes they stare at me,
With harsh, impatient screams they menace me,
Who, with these vans of cunning workmanship
Broad-spread, adventure on their high domain,—
Now mine, as well. Henceforth, ye clamorous birds,
I claim the azure empire of the air!
Henceforth I breast the current of the morn,
Between her crimson shores: a star, henceforth,
Upon the crawling dwellers of the earth
My forehead shines. The steam of sacred blood,
The smoke of burning flesh on altars laid,
Fumes of the temple-wine, and sprinkled myrrh,
Shall reach my palate ere they reach the Gods.
Nay, am not I a God? What other wing,
If not a God’s, could in the rounded sky
Hang thus in solitary poise? What need,
Ye proud Immortals, that my balanced plumes
Should grow, like yonder eagle’s, from the nest?
It may be, ere my crafty father’s line
Sprang from Erectheus, some artificer,
Who found you roaming wingless on the hills,
Naked, asserting godship in the dearth
Of loftier claimants, fashioned you the same.
Thence did you seize Olympus; thence your pride
Compelled the race of men, your slaves, to tear
The temple from the mountain’s marble womb,
To carve you shapes more beautiful than they,
To sate your idle nostrils with the reek
Of gums and spices, heaped on jewelled gold.
Lo, where Hyperion, through the glowing air
Approaching, drives! Fresh from his banquet-meats,
Flushed with Olympian nectar, angrily
He guides his fourfold span of furious steeds,
Convoyed by that bold Hour whose ardent torch
Burns up the dew, toward the narrow beach,
This long, projecting spit of cloudy gold
Whereon I wait to greet him when he comes.
Think not I fear thine anger: this day, thou,
Lord of the silver bow, shalt bring a guest
To sit in presence of the equal Gods
In your high hall: wheel but thy chariot near,
That I may mount beside thee!
——What is this?
I hear the crackling hiss of singed plumes!
The stench of burning feathers stifles me!
My loins are stung with drops of molten wax!—
Ai! ai! my ruined vans!—I fall! I die!
* * * * *
Ere the blue noon o’erspanned the bluer strait
Which parts Icaria from Samos, fell,
Amid the silent wonder of the air,
Fell with a shock that startled the still wave,
A shrivelled wreck of crisp, entangled plumes,
A head whence eagles’ beaks had plucked the eyes,
And clots of wax, black limbs by eagles torn
In falling: and a circling eagle screamed
Around that floating horror of the sea
Derision, and above Hyperion shone.
* * * * *