(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.
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 sky.  '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. Links: Tennyson's 'Eagle': poem #15 Other Whitman poems, including an extensive biography and assessment: poem #54, poem #157, and poem #246. m.