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Eagle Plain

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
overlooking us.

He does not know the meaning of magnificent.
Perhaps we do not altogether either
who cannot touch him.

—Robert Francis

from Robert Francis, Collected Poems, 1936-1976, 1976
University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA

Copyright 1976 by Robert Francis.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of University of Massachusetts Press from Robert Francis, Collected Poems, 1936-1976, 1993. Copyright 1976 by Robert Francis. For further permissions information, contact University of Massachusetts Press, P.O. Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Robert Francis (1901-1987) was the author of seven poetry collections, including Late Fire, Late Snow: New and Uncollected Poems (University of Massachusetts Press, 1992). He was born in Upland, Pennsylvania, and studied at Harvard and lived for over sixty years in the same house near Amherst, Massachusetts.

Learn more about Robert Francis at The Poetry Foundation.