At dusk, that slinks down like a wolf from the encircling hills,
Go forth those by whose hand the crows of death are daily preened,
And issue out to where they stand, these crows, each in her pen
Stood black, and breathing oil, and brooding fate, and fiercely joyed
To feel beneath her feathers racked the yellow darts of doom:
The same that idly cranked up an idly cursing crew,
By use and sweat with fate engrossed less than their evening meal.
Yet so her deeds are managed: little are the missiles weighed
At birth, or when towed out to fill the crows' engulfing breasts:
But when the flying warrior thumbs his awful sign, and they
Begin to pitch, and screaming hurtle downwards through the night,
Then they transform to things of awful fear and reckless death,
The fingertips of fate ungloved to work her woeful will.
Beside the crows their preeners stand and wanton with the time,
Until the warriors are come: these wrapped in leather garb,
And scenting it, perhaps the smell that goes with them to death,
And twisting wit and coarseness in a desperate bravado,
And sucking the last weed, awhile they swear, each to himself,
We fly as ever: dawn shall find us standing here again.
Soon, with a clumsy haste, each warrior seeks his battle place:
The pilot signs to thrill the monster's veins with leaping life:
And left and right the double mouths with exhultation roar,
Awhile the surging flames fly back into the devilish gloom;
And by the left the demon thunders all his stunning might,
And the huge circle ripples with a writhe of ghastly power,
And teeming off, a typhoon lashes all the nether world:
So at its leash the crow is wrath, to leap and tear the sky.
The rightward demon now with pounding cleaves the tortured night,
And well away the grooms retire (his crushing might fore-known),
Till last the rider of the sky makes sign, when forth two creep
And loose the mighty bird her pinioned feet:then quickly flee:
For, with a roar of triumph, forward she betakes her way,
And snarling, ne'er but half-restrained, makes her impatient path
Into the stretching highway leading up into the clouds.
Now paused: an inky monster pregnant with the slings of death:
Waiting eager for her mandate from the charnel house of doom:
A messenger that fate devised that man devise for man,
And hated by the victim and the wielder each alike:
Each sentanced, for permitting pride in some, to suffer death.
Now flashes forth the sign: instant howls out the lusting crow;
Intoxicated, views the mighty pathway stretched ahead;
Springs forth roaring, head down, sniffing at the concrete as it flies,
Tail-high, tearing in a frenzy madly o'er the beckoning track,
Screaming thunder to the heavens such as make the mountains shake,
Howling hell and monstrous slaughter in a giant ecstasy,
Of a sudden in a fury springing, gaining her the sky.
In triumph circles once the crow her eyrie left below,
Then turns towards her victim in a distant alien land;
Awhile her sisters each one thunders after in her wake,
And last the night is silent, save the whispering of the stars.