Song of the Falcon
by Maxim Gorky (1894)
High up the mountain crawled a snake and lay there in a slimy crevice, all curled up tightly and looking seaward.
High up the sky the sun shone brightly, rocks breathing heat, and ocean waves were breaking stone beneath the mountain.
Cutting a canyon into the mountain, grinding the stones, a stream was rushing, all dark and foamy, towards the ocean.
All of a sudden into the crevice where Snake was resting there fell a falcon, with blood on feathers and deeply wounded…
Her cry was piercing; she fell and tumbled, crushing her breast in helpless anger upon the stones.
First, Snake was frightened, crawled shrewdly backwards, but soon he gathered that poor Falcon had maybe only a few brief minutes of life remaining…
He slithered close to the wounded Falcon, and hissed directly into her ear:
– Hey, are you dying?
– Yes, I am dying! – responded Falcon with heavy sigh. – I had a good life!.. I knew fulfillment of dreams and hopes!.. I saw the sky… I touched it, soared! You’ll never know it so high and close!.. You poor creature!
– What is the sky to me? Nothing and empty… One cannot crawl there. I like it here … so warm and humid!
Snake answered thus the bird of freedom, and deep inside he even chuckled at her delusions.
And thought like this: “We fly or crawl, but in the end we know what happens: we all turn to dust, all end up buried in sand or soil…”
But wounded Falcon just shook herself, lifted her head up, and looked around the seeping crevice. Indeed, the stone around there was wet and slimy, the air was stifling and smelled of scavenge.
And Falcon gathered all her strength remaining and let out a cry of pain and yearning:
– Oh, if I only could rise up flying – one last time only, while I’m still living – into deep air of lucid heaven!…
Snake heard, and whispered: “Why would she, dying, be so driven to grieve for flying?… This ‘lucid’ air that bears flyers, indeed, may turn out to be delightful for living creatures. “
He said to Falcon, the dying dreamer: “Come on, move close to the cliff’s edge there, and throw down your wounded body. For who would know, your wings and air might lift you upward, and once again let you enjoy the thrill of flying into your element.”
And Falcon shuddered, with a loud cry attempted gaining the edge of the canyon, slipping and falling and once more rising. But then she made it to the utmost edge, spread out her wings; inhaling deeply, she looked around with a flaming glare and – downward fell.
And like a stone she rolled and tumbled, and slipped and scattered, breaking her wings and losing feathers…
The stream below caught her, all beaten, washed off her bleeding, covered with foam and gently carried her into the ocean.
The ocean waves were crushing stones with mournful roaring… The corpse of Falcon was never found in the vast expanses of rocks and water…
Laying in his crevice, Snake contemplated the death of Falcon, her love of flying. He lay a long time in the narrow crevice, watching the deep, transparent air that teases the eyes of the misguided with silly dreams.
– What did she see there, in total emptiness, without bottom or edge or cover? The likes of her, in death as living, why do they dare confuse one’s soul with their passion of flying skyward? What do they see there? What do they hear? And might not I find all this out if I could fly there for just one moment?
Snake said – and did it! His body tightened, he fast uncoiled, cutting through the air, like a flash of lightning.
Those born to crawl – will never fly!.. Forgetting that, Snake fell on stones; not hurt, however, he thought, elated:
– So, that’s the beauty of skyward flying! It is – in falling!.. Birds are so funny! Not knowing earth they moan if grounded, they feel the calling to rise to heaven and seek life’s pleasures in empty vastness. It is but empty. It’s filled with light but void of food and of protection for us the living. Why then was Falcon so bold and proud? Just for one purpose, which is to hide the sheer madness of her desires, and lack of fitness among the living. Birds are so foolish!.. But I am wiser! I shan’t be bullied by their tattles. I know now! I saw their heaven, the sky of flying. I launched into it, its depths I measured, endured falling, but did not shatter, and gained much confidence from this endeavor. Let those wretches who cannot love this solid ground live in delusion. I know the truth. I won’t be fooled. Of earth created – by earth I’m living.
And feeling proud, he coiled tightly, and was so happy.
In sunlit glory the ocean glittered, and waves crushed stones with thunderous roaring. And in that roaring one could just hear the song, or ballad, of proud Falcon; the rocks were trembling from waves’ hard beating, and heaven echoed words of the ballad:
“We praise the daring of valiant dreamers!
“Creation’s wisdom is in their boldness. Oh, blessed Falcon! You were defeated, and died pursuing your dream of freedom, of flying skyward. And yet … Oh, Falcon! Yours is the future – the blood you spilled, like sparks of fire, will light the darkness of grim existence, igniting hearts of countless many with thirst for living! And in this ballad, which is composed for the strong of spirit, you will be always the shining symbol, the proud caller to light and freedom!
“Praised be the daring of all bold dreamers!”