"I might soar without tempting the fate of Icarus"

Icarus, in Greek mythology, was a young man who attempted to escape from Crete using wings constructed from feathers and wax.  

The Lament for Icarus (1898)
Public DomainThe Lament for Icarus (1898) - Credit: Herbert James Draper
The story of Icarus is often used as a warning against pride and overwhelming ambition.  In many ways it is not in her early experimentation with flight that Fevvers comes closest to his fate, but later in her career as her obsession with wealth, triumph and her own invincibility almost leads to her downfall.Icarus and his father Daedalus, a craftsman, had been on the island creating the labyrinth in which King Minos intended to imprison the Minotaur, but the king refused to allow them to leave.  Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, but, intoxicated by the feeling of flight, he soared too high.  The wax melted on his wings and he fell to his death.

Human flight has been a recurring ambition in fables from many different cultures, almost always with similar results to that of Icarus.  Persian poet Ferdowsi depicted a chariot drawn by crows, whilst the British King Bladud was said to have worn wings but overbalanced in midair and crashed to the ground.  In China, legend suggests that Emperor Shun escaped a burning tower with the aid of two large reed hats; a rare example of a successful flight, or parachute jump at least. 

The negative connotations of human flight were embedded in religion.  For a human to wear wings like an angel was seen as an arrogant desire to become divine; in contrast, stories of flying witches and demons remain part of popular culture to this day.  Early attempts at building aeroplanes raised similar concerns about humanity attempting to interfere with divinity, to overreach its natural limits and to doom itself to failure.