The Dalliance of The Eagles: Poem - Summary & Analysis

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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.


      Summary. The Dalliance of The Eagles is a poem of ten not very long lines, describing vividly the violent amorous contact of two eagles in their dalliance of love. A naturalist Mr. John Burroughs had told the poet the way in which eagles proceed with their mating. The poet has enlivened that matter-of-fact description of the scientist with his own poetic flourish and felicity.

      The poet used to take a short forenoon walk along a road that skirted a river. On one of those days he saw the mating dalliance of a pair of eagles. These gigantic birds proceed with their love-play in a characteristically big way. High in the sky, they love each other violently. They clinch together and interlock their claws. The pairs of wings beat together, the beaks grapple together. The swirling mass of the two huge bodies, united together indulge in a spiral and circular motion, they fall together and balance themselves over the river for a moment. Their play is over and they get separated from each other and fly up separately. The she-eagle goes its own way and the he-eagle its own.

      Critical Analysis. The vividness of the imagery and the apt selection of the choice epithets project the superb quality of this short poem. The natural movement of the different parts of the bodies of the eagles is very realistically portrayed. The mating of the eagles is a short-lived physiological function and no emotional fusion or sublimation needs to be expected in it as in the case of human beings. Only there is a play of the natural instinct which subserves the divine set up for the propagation of the species. This stark fact is hinted at by the closing words: “their separate diverse flight, she hers, he his pursuing”.

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