The Aeronauts

How will they look upon us wingless ones,
Our great aerial children soon to come,
Who even now begin to quicken life
With movement toward their finer element,
And fierce essays against the weight of Time?
When, in the weary lapse of some long flight,
Dawn, undisturbed of any lifting leaf,
Uninterrupted of a waking bird,
Shakes its vast silence in among the stars,
Will they not turn from radiant tides of light,
And, steering earthward, softly speak of us
Their fathers, long contented under trees ?
Yet who shall blame them if they soon forget?
The sunlight will be woven in their blood,
And breadth of spaces, native to their breath,
Will urge them till they soar again for joy.
To them the hills will rise no more, but knit
By river-threads of silver to the vales,
Will trace one pattern to the fringing seas.
Down, ever downward, floats earth’s tapestry!
Its mountain folds to emerald ripples smoothed
By intervening heights of azure air.
Up, up they mount! Where never eagles’ wing
Drops feather; or the smallest waft of cloud
Casts its translucent shadow; till the line
Of earth’s horizon brims a cup so huge
Its rim dissolves the endless distances
In purple interimnglings of faint mist.
And there, within the Garden of the Skies,
With Heaven above, and heaven, as fair, below,
Only the winds, forever voicelessly
Astir among the daffodils of morn
Or soft in petals of the sunset rose,
Recall them to those meadows whence they sprung.
Cloud-cradled must the youth, indeed, have been,
And intimate with starry altitudes,
Whose song would venture that new Paradise,
Or lips attempt that greater Adam’s fame
Who pioneered against the rising sun
And staked his claim above the rainbow’s sign.
But unto us, the wingless, in our dreams
May come a faint prevision of that hour.
On cloudless mornings after days of rain;
Or from some mountain summit’s lift of snow;
Or in a sunset reddening far at sea
The moment may be miraged. And our hearts,
Now islanded by little miles of grass
And tiny leagues of waving forest leaves
Into dissenting nations, leap to meet
A future wherein unfenced realms of air
Have mingled all earth’s peoples into one
And banished war forever from the world.
Yet seldom dare we dream of such a dream
Lest we despair that we must die too soon.