Charles Wharton Stork
Flying Fish: An Ode [excerpt]
How must it be to swim among your kind, Dull with the cold and dreary with the dark, Enclosed above, beneath, before, behind In green uncertainty, from which a shark At any time may dash And doom you like some huge demonic fate With lust insatiate?— He cuts the water with a seething gash;— What use to dart aside? Those great jaws, grinning wide, Will close your frolic as the long teeth clash. But I forget your gift; the bonds that hold The others of your race are loosed for you, For you alone. The silver dolphin bold Shoots like a spray-haired comet from the blue, But may not poise or flit As you do—. What if but a minute's space? Hardly a longer grace Has poet, saint or lover. Nor a whit Less sure to sink are we; Our wings of ecstasy No loftier, no longer joy permit. Yet joy it is! to scorn the dread of death, To dwell for shining moments in the sun Of Beauty and sweet Love, to drink one breath Of a diviner element—though but one; To reach a higher state Of being, to explore a new domain; To leap, and leap again, Unheeding the gray menace of our fate That follows till we fall: For—fishes, men and all— The grim old Shark will have us, soon or late.