Poets And Poetry

Poetry Analysis the Eagle by Alfred Tennyson



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Here is Alfred Tennyson's famous poem "The Eagle".

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

This poem is very short but full of meaning. Every verse consists of eight syllables with an alternating stress pattern of weak, strong, weak, strong. The eight syllables can be divided into four feet. The first syllable of each foot is weak and the second is strong. Poems with eight-syllable verses and a weak-strong stress pattern are in iambic tetrameter.

The poem has regular rhyme. The first three verses all rhyme as well as the final three. Thus, the rhyme scheme is a,a,a,b,b,b.

The first verse of the poem exemplifies personification. Though the eagle has claws, Tennyson uses the word "hands". In the second verse, Tennyson makes it clear that the eagle is very high in the sky when he says it is close to the sun. The phrase "lonely lands" expresses the eagle's solitude. It is also an example of alliteration because "lonely" and "lands" both start with the letter "l".

In the third verse, Tennyson expresses the eagle's connection to the sky. The sky is described as an azure world which completely encircles the eagle. The word "stands", not a word that is usually associated with the eagle, is another example of personification.

The final three verses of the poem mark a shift in the direction of the poem because they describe the ocean, the eagle's home of mountain walls, and finally, his descent to the world below. The sea has the appearance of being wrinkled and it merely crawls. This is in contrast to the swift motion of the eagle through the sky. It is also important to note that the eagle is so high in the sky that everything seems slow and distant. When the eagle watches from his mountain walls, one senses that the eagle has a good view of all below and also that the moment the eagle spots prey, it will be attacked. This is emphasized in the final line which compares the eagle to a thunderbolt. The reader senses the speed of the eagle as it flies from high in the sky to the world below. This comparison with "like" is an excellent example of a simile.

Tennyson's poem "The Eagle", though short, has regular rhyme and other poetic devices such as iambic tetrameter, alliteration, personification and simile. The first three verses are rather different from the final three. The first three stanzas focus on the eagle but the final three focus on the eagle's world and nature. The literary devices of the poem and the powerful imagery combine to make it a classic in the world of English poetry.

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