Many believed it couldn’t happen.
Of all the contraptions built on the hopes of becoming the first successful flying machine, poet John Townsend Trowbridge found the notion of heavier-than-air flight silly. His famous poem, Darius Green and His Flying Machine was written in 1870, as a slapstick caricature of the ambitions of these inventors. The young Darius Green, a Yankee buffoon, watches the birds and comes up with a plan to fly:
“Darius was clearly of the opinion
That the air is also man’s dominion,
And that, with paddle or fin or pinion,
We soon or late
The azure, as now we sail the sea.”
Darius builds a flying machine and decides to test it out and get the hang of it before he shows the world his invention. He climbs the barn and leaps triumphantly into the air with his winged creation while his brothers watch. Unfortunately, gravity takes over and Darius falls “to the ground with a thump.” His brothers laugh and ask Darius how he enjoyed his flight. Lying on the ground defeated and seeing stars, he replies that although he enjoyed flying the landing part was not much fun. Trowbridge concludes with a moral to this cautionary tale in case you didn’t catch his drift:
“I just have room for the moral here;
And this is the moral: Stick to your sphere.
Or if you insist, as you have the right,
On spreading your wings for a loftier flight,
The moral is, Take care how you light.”
It may seem absurd now, but at the time, Trowbridge was in good company. In 1895, an important man of science, Lord Kelvin, the President of the Royal Society of England made it plain: “Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.”
Eight years later, on December 3rd, 1903 brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the impossible. From Kitty Hawk, NC, Orville sent his father a simple telegram:
SUCCESS FOUR FLIGHTS THURSDAY MORNING ALL AGAINST TWENTY-ONE MILE WIND [stop] STARTED FROM LEVEL WITH ENGINE POWER ALONE [stop] AVERAGE SPEED THROUGH AIR THIRTY-ONE MILES [stop] LONGEST 57 SECONDS [stop] INFORM PRESS [stop] HOME CHRISTMAS
Try It: Wing Envy Poetry
Have you ever watched birds flying in the air and wished you could do the same? If so, why not put that imagination of yours to pen and paper? If you could fly like a bird, where would you go? Also think about what you might look like. Do you have colorful feathers or are you more stealthy and bat-like? What makes you special? Can you soar into the troposphere and dive at the speed of sound? Write a poem and tell us about yourself, you spectacular bird!
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a poem by Monica written from a unique perspective: