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.

This poem is in the public domain.