The Island Hawk

Hushed are the whimpering winds on the hill,
Dumb is the shrinking plain,
And the songs that enchanted the woods are still
As I shoot to the skies again!
Does the blood grow black on my fierce bent beak,
Does the down still cling to my claw?
Who brightened these eyes for the prey they seek?
Life, I follow thy law!
For I am the hawk, the hawk, the hawk!
Who knoweth my pitiless breast?
Who watcheth me sway in the wild wind's way?
Flee – flee – for I quest, I quest.

As I glide and glide with my peering head,
Or swerve at a puff of smoke,
Who watcheth my wings on the wind outspread,
Here – gone – with an instant stroke?
Who toucheth the glory of life I feel
As I buffet this great glad gale,
Spire and spire to the cloud-world, wheel,
Loosen my wings and sail?
For I am the hawk, the island hawk,
Who knoweth my pitiless breast?
Who watcheth me sway in the sun's bright way?
Flee – flee – for I quest, I quest.

My mate in the nest on the high bright tree
Blazing with dawn and dew,
She knoweth the gleam of the world and the glee
As I drop like a bolt from the blue.
She knoweth the fire of the level flight
As I skim, close, close to the ground,
With the long grass lashing my breast and the bright
Dew-drops flashing around.
She watcheth the hawk, the hawk, the hawk
(Oh, the red-blotched eggs in the nest!)
Watcheth him sway in the sun's bright way.
Flee – flee – for I quest, I quest.

She builded her nest on the high bright wold,
She was taught in a world afar
The lore that is only an April old
Yet old as the evening star.
Life of a far off ancient day
In an hour unhooded her eyes.
In the time of the budding of one green spray
She was wise as the stars are wise.
An eyas in eyry, a yellow-eyed hawk,
On the old elm's burgeoning breast,
She watcheth me sway in the wild wind's way.
Flee – flee – for I quest, I quest.

She hath ridden on white Arabian steeds
Thro' the ringing English dells,
For the joy of a great queen, hunting in state,
To the music of golden bells.
A queen's fair fingers have drawn the hood
And tossed her aloft in the blue,
A white hand eager for needless blood.
I hunt for the needs of two.
A haggard in yarak, a hawk, a hawk!
Who knoweth my pitiless breast?
Who watcheth me sway in the sun's bright way?
Flee – flee – for I quest, I quest.

Who fashioned her wide and splendid eyes
That have stared in the eyes of kings?
With a silken twist she was looped to their wrist:
She has clawed at their jewelled rings!
Who flung her first thro' the crimson dawn
To pluck him a prey from the skies,
When the love-light shone upon lake and lawn
In the valleys of Paradise?
Who fashioned the hawk, the hawk, the hawk,
Bent beak and pitiless breast?
Who watcheth him sway in the wild wind's way?
Flee – flee – for I quest, I quest.

Is there ever a song in all the world
Shall say how the quest began
With the beak and the wings that have made us kings
And cruel – almost – as man?
The wild wind whimpers across the heath
Where the sad little tufts of blue
And the red-stained grey little feathers of death
Flutter! Who fashioned us? Who?
Who fashioned the scimitar wings of the hawk,
Bent beak and arrowy breast?
Who watcheth him sway in the sun's bright way?
Flee – flee – for I quest, I quest.

by Alfred Noyes

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