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.
Marianne Moore - 1887-1972
The Paper Nautilus
For authorities whose hopes are shaped by mercenaries? Writers entrapped by teatime fame and by commuters' comforts? Not for these the paper nautilus constructs her thin glass shell. Giving her perishable souvenir of hope, a dull white outside and smooth- edged inner surface glossy as the sea, the watchful maker of it guards it day and night; she scarcely eats until the eggs are hatched. Buried eight-fold in her eight arms, for she is in a sense a devil- fish, her glass ram'shorn-cradled freight is hid but is not crushed; as Hercules, bitten by a crab loyal to the hydra, was hindered to succeed, the intensively watched eggs coming from the shell free it when they are freed,— leaving its wasp-nest flaws of white on white, and close- laid Ionic chiton-folds like the lines in the mane of a Parthenon horse, round which the arms had wound themselves as if they knew love is the only fortress strong enough to trust to.