The Eagle That Is Forgotten by Vachel Lindsay

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"Sleep Softly, Eagle Forgotten"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "The Eagle That Is Forgotten" is an elegy addressing the deceased liberal politician, John Altgeld of Illinois (1847-1902). Making reference to the effect of his death upon others and ending on a note of consolation, the poem furnishes a picture of the man's virtues and of his peculiar but inimitable immortality. He is pictured as an eagle among men because of his service to others, and as a man who, though his name was too easily and too soon forgotten, lives on in the lives of his "eagle" progeny. Neither his enemies nor his loved ones remember him, says the poet. The enemies rejoiced at his death and the widow, the children, and "the mocked and the scorned and the wounded, the lame and the poor,/ That should have remembered forever . . . remember no more." Nevertheless, "a hundred white eagles have risen, the sons of your sons," says the poet. You are reflected and live in their zeal and valor, the same zeal and valor "that wore out your soul in the service of man." And "to live in mankind" is far better, the poet concludes, than "to live in a name." The last verse of his poem reads:

Sleep softly . . . eagle forgotten . . . under the stone,
Time has its way with you there, and the clay has its own.
Sleep on, O brave-hearted, O wise man, that kindled the flame–
To live in mankind is far more than to live in a name,
To live in mankind, far, far more . . . than to live in a name.