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By Robert Francis

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, “Eagle Plain” from Collected Poems, 1936-1976. Copyright © 1993 by Robert Francis.  Reprinted by permission of University of Massachusetts Press.

Source: Collected Poems 1936-1976 (University of Massachusetts Press, 1993)

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  • Mythology & Folklore
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Robert Francis
Robert Francis was born in Upland, Pennsylvania, and studied at Harvard. Although he taught at workshops and lectured at universities across the United States, he lived for over sixty years in the same house near Amherst, Massachusetts. His poems are often charmingly whimsical, presenting conundrums and mysteries with a light, lyrical touch. Robert Frost, an important influence on the poet, said that Francis was “of all the great neglected poets, the greatest.”

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