This poem takes a new look at a traditional symbol.
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
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.
Reproduced with permission (click for permissions information).