Lines on an incident observed from the deck of a steamboat on the Mississippi river
Where the dark primeval forests
Rise against the western sky
And "the Father of the Waters"
In his strength goes rushing by:
There an eagle, flying earthward
From his eyrie far above,
With a serpent of the forest
In a fierce encounter strove.
Now he gains and now he loses,
Now he frees his ruffled wings;
And now high in air he rises;
But the serpent round him clings.
In that death embrace entwining,
Now they sink and now they rise;
But the serpent wins the battle
With the monarch of the skies.
Yet his wings still struggle upward,
Though that crushing weight they bear;
But more feebly those broad pinions
Strike the waves of upper air.
Down to earth he sinks a captive
In that writhing, living chain;
Never o'er the blue horizon
Will his proud form sweep again.
Never more in lightning flashes
Will his eye of terror gleam
Round the high and rocky eyrie,
Where his lonely eaglets scream.
Oh majestic, royal eagle,
Soaring sunward from thy birth,
Thou hast lost the realm of heaven
For one moment on the earth!