He "Digesteth Harde Yron"
Although the aepyornis or roc that lived in Madagascar, and the moa are extinct, the camel-sparrow, linked with them in size--the large sparrow Xenophon saw walking by a stream--was and is a symbol of justice. This bird watches his chicks with a maternal concentration-and he's been mothering the eggs at night six weeks--his legs their only weapon of defense. He is swifter than a horse; he has a foot hard as a hoof; the leopard is not more suspicious. How could he, prized for plumes and eggs and young used even as a riding-beast, respect men hiding actor-like in ostrich skins, with the right hand making the neck move as if alive and from a bag the left hand strewing grain, that ostriches might be decoyed and killed! Yes, this is he whose plume was anciently the plume of justice; he whose comic duckling head on its great neck revolves with compass-needle nervousness when he stands guard, in S-like foragings as he is preening the down on his leaden-skinned back. The egg piously shown as Leda's very own from which Castor and Pollux hatched, was an ostrich-egg. And what could have been more fit for the Chinese lawn it grazed on as a gift to an emperor who admired strange birds, than this one, who builds his mud-made nest in dust yet will wade in lake or sea till only the head shows. . . . . . . . Six hundred ostrich-brains served at one banquet, the ostrich-plume-tipped tent and desert spear, jewel- gorgeous ugly egg-shell goblets, eight pairs of ostriches in harness, dramatize a meaning always missed by the externalist. The power of the visible is the invisible; as even where no tree of freedom grows, so-called brute courage knows. Heroism is exhausting, yet it contradicts a greed that did not wisely spare the harmless solitaire or great auk in its grandeur; unsolicitude having swallowed up all giant birds but an alert gargantuan little-winged, magnificently speedy running-bird. This one remaining rebel is the sparrow-camel.
From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1961 Marianne Moore, © renewed 1989 by Lawrence E. Brinn and Louise Crane, executors of the Estate of Marianne Moore.