The words of Like a sick eagle
(1920) are the first five lines of John Keats’s sonnet On Seeing the Elgin Marbles
. This is an arrangement of an ensemble ‘song without words’ sketched about 1906, though Ives seems to have associated the music with the time when his wife Harmony was hospitalized for termination of pregnancy in April 1909. The ‘weak and dragging’ descending figures, in accompaniment and voice, close on an ambiguous upward glance.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2005