“Eagle Plain” by Robert Francis
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
The American eagle is not aware he is the American eagle. He is never tempted to look modest. When orators advertise the American eagle's virtues, the American eagle is not listening. This is his virtue. He is somewhere else, he is mountains away but even if he were near he would never make an audience. The American eagle never says he will serve if drafted, will dutifully serve etc. He is not at our service. If we have honored him we have honored one who unequivocally honors himself by overlooking us. He does not know the meaning of magnificent. Perhaps we do not altogether either who cannot touch him.
from Robert Francis, Collected Poems, 1936-1976, 1976
University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA
Copyright 1976 by Robert Francis.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of University of Massachusetts Press from Robert Francis, Collected Poems, 1936-1976, 1993. Copyright 1976 by Robert Francis. For further permissions information, contact University of Massachusetts Press, P.O. Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004.
About the Poet
Robert Francis (1901-1987) was the author of seven poetry collections, including Late Fire, Late Snow: New and Uncollected Poems (University of Massachusetts Press, 1992). He was born in Upland, Pennsylvania, and studied at Harvard and lived for over sixty years in the same house near Amherst, Massachusetts.
Learn more about Robert Francis at The Poetry Foundation.