On such occasions they seem to be coming together for some aerial festival or grand celebration; and, as if bent upon a final effort to work off a part of their superabundant wing-power before settling down for the night, they circle and circle high above the chimney-top, a great cloud of them, drifting this way and that, all in high spirits and chippering as they fly.
No doubt it can afford to despise the wing-power of its quarry; and I have sometimes thought that it takes a tyrannous delight in witnessing the consternation caused by its hollow trumpeting sound. This may be only a fancy, but some hawks do certainly take pleasure in pursuing and striking birds when not seeking prey.
As an exhibition of metaphysical wing-power, that is almost as wonderful as the flight of Cardinal Newman when confronted with the fact that his divinely guided church had burned men for teaching the Copernican view of the universe; that infallible popes had again and again condemned this heresy ex cathedra.
Our hawks could not survive without wing-power or great speed, but the crow survives without this power, because he is an omnivorous feeder and can thrive where the hawk would starve, and also because no bird of prey wants him, and, more than that, because he is dependent upon nothing that requires speed to secure. He is cunning and suspicious for reasons that are not obvious.
The object of the hunters was not to strike these creatures from a distance, but to run them down and capture them by sheer exhaustion. This the great wing-power of the caldectaa enabled us to do, though by the time we had driven the thernee to bay my own Pegasus was fairly tired.
Yet the air of frolic and of superabundance of wing-power is more marked with her than with any other of our birds. Her feeding and twig-gathering seem like asides in a life of endless play. Several times both in spring and fall I have seen swifts gather in immense numbers toward nightfall, to take refuge in large unused chimney-stacks.
All birds are wise about their food-supplies. On the beach the wild life that I see is all on wings. There are the tranquil, effortless gliding herring gulls, snow-white beneath and pearl-gray above, displaying an affluence of wing-power restful to look upon airplanes that put forth their powers so subtly and so silently as to elude both eye and ear.
"It's comin' yet for a' that, That man to man the world o'er Shall brithers be for a' that." One other general characteristic of the lyric mood needs to be emphasized, namely, its genuineness. It is impossible to feign "the lyric gush, And the wing-power, and the rush Of the air."
To what widely different use birds put their power of flight! To the great mass of them it is simply a means of locomotion, of getting from one point to another. A small minority put their wing-power to more ideal uses, as the lark when he claps his wings at heaven's gate, and the ruffed grouse when he drums; even the woodcock has some other use for his wings than to get from one point to another.
Just as the bricks and stones of a building are useless until held in the places designed for them under some governing plan, so we may say that a selfish and gross character is not bound together by noble sentiments. Or we may say, again, that sentiment is the wing-power of man, whereby he has ability to fly away from the commonplace and unworthy.