Lay for the Day 26th
1784: in a letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin expresses his dissatisfaction
with the eagle as the symbol of America (it had been incorporated into
the Great Seal of the United States two years before). Franklin said the
eagle was a Bird of bad moral character, like those among Men who
live by sharping and robbing. His tongue perhaps a little in his
cheek, he proposed instead the turkey, a much more respectable bird.
In 1775, however, in a letter to the Pennsylvania Journal, Franklin
had suggested a different national emblem altogether the rattlesnake,
for a number of ingenious reasons, among them that "she never begins
an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders.
XI. The Eagle
I never loved so fervently
Before were prophecies and shadowings.
The greatest birds stretch
out the most slow wings
And do not hasten to the hours they soar.
Before were sparrow-flights, short and unsure,
Fast-beating, full of comings and goings
From hedge to hedge, flung out like winnowings.
Now loves eagle eyes vale and open moor.
the eagles sudden and love is meek;
one, while the other is lowly,
stakes no claim on clouds down which to glide
at the lamb with imperious beak.
surpasses the false-named holy:
let me, love, mistake love for pride.
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