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The Dalliance of the Eagles -- Walt Whitman

(Poem #268) The Dalliance of the Eagles
 Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
 Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
 The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
 The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
 Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
 In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling
 Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's lull,
 A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
 Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
 She hers, he his, pursuing.
-- Walt Whitman
A rushing, soaring, stunningly kinetic poem. If Tennyson's eagle was
majestic, Whitman's are *alive*, splashed across the page in a vibrant
celebration of life, sex and energy. To quote from the Britannica's
assessment of his work,

  "Whitman's greatest theme is a symbolic identification of the regenerative
  power of nature with the deathless divinity of the soul. His poems are
  filled with a religious faith in the processes of life, particularly those
  of fertility, sex, and the "unflagging pregnancy" of nature: sprouting
  grass, mating birds, phallic vegetation, the maternal ocean, and planets
  in formation ("the journey-work of stars")."

The language is vivid and descriptive even for Whitman - I find it
impossible to read the poem and not *see* the eagles, spinning and gyrating
against the azure[1] sky.

[1] 'Why azure?' I hear you ask. Well, first off, a poem like this seems to
call for a perfect day as backdrop. But more fundamentally, I suspect that
I'll never be able to see an eagle referred to without having Tennyson's
magnificent poem (see the links) flash through my mind.


Tennyson's 'Eagle': poem #15

Other Whitman poems, including an extensive biography and assessment:
  poem #54, poem #157, and poem #246.


95 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Mcandhm said...

Subj: Fwd: Re-write 
Date: 4/11/2003 5:05:47 AM Pacific Standard Time
From: <A HREF="mailto:Mcandhm">Mcandhm</A>
To: <A


..i see
the imperfections of my mortal self.
Yet You look at me with a playful longing
giving me hope that i live on in a brighter realm.
One of beauty i never fathomed.
Only fancied.
Dreams of Youth gone by.
..I sing
because of You, I can rise on broken wings.
Soaring beyond the pale
where Whitman's eagles interwine in a frantic embrace.
Youthful lusts never realized
immortalized in our frenzied flight.
..dedicated to Hawk 4/10/2003
in memory of Walt Whitman

Heather Woods Austin

Copyright ©2003 Heather Woods Austin

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I hate Walt Whitman and all his boring stuff "the magic mountain" is the most crappy thing I've ever read.

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