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The Eagle, pp.85-87.

[Three Hundred Animals Contents]

“See, from the hoary groves, that nod and wave 

In th’ howling storm, on Jura’s frozen brow, 

The royal Eagle, tyrant of the air, 

Ascend, undazzl’d, to the blaze of noon; 

And, from the radiant zenith, pouncing straight, 

Seize on her prey – what time her downy brood, 

On barren rocks exposed, with saffron beaks 

Expanded wide, their wonted food demand, 

And screams their hunger to the passing blast.” 


   THIS bird seems to enjoy a kind of supremacy over the rest of the inhabitants of the air. The mythologists placed him at the side of Jupiter, and entrusted to him the thunder-bolts of heaven. The Roman Legions followed the representation of the Eagle over all the provinces of the three parts of the world then known, and even now this bird is the principal armorial bearing of several kingdoms of Europe. The loftiness of his flight merited him a place on the side of the most sublime of the scriptural writers, St. John the Evangelist. 

   The Golden Eagle is, in length, from the point of the beak to the end of the tail, about three feet nine inches; the breadth, when his wings are extended, is eight spans. The beak is horny, crooked, and very strong. The feathers of the neck are of a rusty colour, and the rest nearly black, with lighter spots. Providence seems to have delighted in working the mechanism of the Eagle’s eye, in order to give his sight the greatest perfection required for the purpose it was intended for: he has a double pair of eye-lids, which move independant of each other, and his optic powers are so strong that he is said to gaze steadfastly upon the sun without blinking. The feet are feathered down to the claws, which have a wonderful grasp; the leg is yellowish, and his four talons are crooked and strong. 

   Eagles are remarkable for their longevity, and their faculty of sustaining a long abstinence from food. Keylter relates that an Eagle died at Vienna after a confinement of 104 years, which justifies the allusion in Psalm ciii. v. 5, and the etymology of the Greek name. The Eagle is found in England and Ireland, in Germany, and nearly all parts of Europe. He is carnivorous, and when in want of flesh, he feeds on serpents and lizards. This noble bird has been often tamed, but in this situation he still preserves an innate love of liberty. The nest of the Eagle is composed of strong sticks, covered with rushes and generally built on the point of an inaccessible rock, from whence he darts upon his prey with the rapidity of the lightning. 

– “Nigh in her sight, 

“The Bird of Jove stoop’d from his airy tour, 

“Two birds of gayest plume before him drove.” 

———————————————-PARADISE LOST, ix. 184. 

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