A course precipitous, of dizzy speed,
Suspending thought and breadth; a monstrous sight!
For in the air do I behold, indeed,
An Eagle and a Serpent wreathed in fight:--
And now relaxing its impetuous flight,
Before the aerial rock on which I stood,
The Eagle hovering, wheel'd to left and right,
And hung with lingering wings over the flood,
And startled with its yells the wide air's solitude.
A shaft of light upon its wings descended,
And every golden feather gleam'd therein--
Feather and scale inextricable blended,
The Serpent's mail'd and many-color'd skin
Shone through the plumes its coils were twined within
By many a swollen and knotted fold and high
And far the neck receding lithe and thin,
Sustain'd a crested head which warily
Shifted and glanced before the Eagle's steadfast eye.
Around, around, in ceaseless circles wheeling,
With clang of wings and scream, the Eagle sail'd
Incessantly--sometimes on high concealing
Its lessening orbs sometimes as if it fail'd,
Droop'd through the air; and still it shriek'd and wail'd,
And casting back its eager head with beak
And talon unremittingly assail'd
The wreathed Serpent, who did ever seek
Upon his enemy's heart a mortal wound to wreak.
What life, what power, was kindled and arose
Within the sphere of that appalling fray!
For from the encounter of these wondrous foes,
A vapor like the sea's suspended spray
Hung gather'd: in the void air, far away,
Floated the shatter'd plumes; bright scales did leap,
Where'er the Eagle's talons made their way,
Like sparks into the darkness,--as they sweep,
Blood stains the snowy foam of the tumultuous deep.
Swift chances in that combat--many a cheek,
And many a chance, a dark and wild turmoil;
Sometimes the snake around his enemy's neck
Lock'd in stiff wings his adamantine coil,
Until the Eagle, faint with pain and toil,
Remitted his strong flight, and near the sea
Languidly flutter'd, hopeless so to foil
His adversary, who then rear'd on high
His red and burning crest radiant with victory.
Then on the white edge of the bursting surge,
Where they had sunk together; would the snake
Relax his suffocating grasp, and scourge
The wind with his wild writhings; for to break
That chain of torment, the vast bird would shake
The strength of his unconquerable wings
As in despair, and with his sinewy neck,
dissolve in sudden shock those linked rings,
Then soar--as swift as smoke from a volcano springs.
Wile baffled wile, and strength encounter'd
Thus long, but unprevailing:--the event
Of that portentous fight appear'd at length;
Until the lamp of day was almost spent
It had endured, when lifeless, stark and rent,
Hung high that mighty Serpent, and at last
Fell to the sea, while o'er the continent,
With clang of wings and scream the Eagle past,
Heavily borne away on the exhausted blast.