George Sterling

(1869-1926 / United States)

The Caged Eagle - Poem by George Sterling

Dost hear the west wind calling thee afar,
O thou that hast beheld the night withdrawn,
And past the crystal thresholds of the dawn
Soared on the pathway of the morning star?

O'er what cold forests and what granite hills
Were once thy roads, in days remote from this?
What torrents knew thee and what valleys miss
The shadow of thy pinion on their rills?

Does no mate mourn thee, faithful to thee yet,
Deep in the wilderness where men are few,
Whose wings, now tireless on the eternal blue,
Would fold by thine on some snow-parapet?

Or was it thine the bitter coasts to know,
Where the profound Atlantic thunders welled
To walls from which thine ageless eyes beheld
The northern ocean foaming far below?

Thy mate alone might share thy towering flight,
On equal wing in lonely heavens borne,
And rest with thee, waiting the distant morn,
On pinnacles made silent by the night.

Here is no sea, not wood of western leaf,
Nor mountains where the wind is on the snow:
Before thy prisoned gaze thy jailors go,
Curious, careless, knowing not thy grief.

The seasons of thy liberty are fled,
And hours when thou wast comrade of the cloud.
Now vultures are companions, and the crowd,
Long with the vision of thy bondage fed.

What music here shall mingle with thy dreams,
Or grace the years in which thou still must pine?
The song of tempest-halting firs was thine,
And the ascending voice of many streams.

And men have brought thee unto this at length,
Tho 'Freedom! freedom!' seemed thy native cry.
Lost are the ancient eyries on the sky,
The azure lanes, the sunlight in its strength.

Yet look on me, and one thy gaze shall find
Freedom, but doomed awhile thy fate to share—
Whose wings, as thine, ache for a wider air
And solitudes august with stars and wind.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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