Analysis of The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Length: 444 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)
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A brief but powerful poem written by the great Victorian poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Eagle is an inspiring poetic piece. Tennyson, recognized as the greatest poet in Victorian England, was distinguished as poet laureate in1850. Readers from all over looked to his poems for advice on the major issues effecting their lives. Tennyson began writing poetry when he was ten and published his first book of poetry with the help of his brother, Poems by Two Brothers. In 1830 Tennyson published the first volume of verse to appear under his own name, Poems, Chiefly Lyrical. For twelve years after that Tennyson took a break from writing due to death of a close friend. He returned to poetry and in 1842 published Poems, a two-volume collection. Tennyson was so skillful in molding the English language in rhyme and rhythm that his poetry is as popular today as it was 150 years ago. This can be proven by one of Tennyson’s deepest and most symbolic poems, The Eagle. The poem's facade tells of a great American symbol, an eagle, watching over the sea as the leader of the land. Deeper down the poem tells of getting older and trying to hold to life enjoy the time you have.
The Eagle, a short lyrical masterpiece, only having two short stanzas with three lines each and a somewhat elementary rhyme scheme, doesn’t need length to get its point across. Tennyson does this by using many words that have more than one meeting, or connotations. Each line of this poem has a deeper or symbolic meaning to it. “He clasps the crag with crooked hands”. The “he” in this line is referring to an elderly person and he is holding a “crag”, life, with his old, weak, “crooked hands”. Close to the “sun”, heaven, in the ”lonely lands”, by himself. Elderly people are always alone whether it be mentally or actually living by themselves in and old house or a nursing home. Becoming old is synonymous with being lonely. “Ringed with the azure world he stands”, is describing someone who is very much alive. He is surrounded by old people who are crippled or cannot walk, “The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls.” “He watches” the outside world from inside of his room, “mountain walls”.
Then he dies, “like a thunderbolt falls.” It is obvious that this poems deeper persona is of an elderly person clutching to life but enjoying the time that he has and then perishing. Hold onto the time that you have as long as you have.
There are some words in the poem that can be confusing to the reader. If you don’t understand the meaning of crag (a steep rugged rock rising above others) or azure (the deep blue color of the unclouded sky), this poem might be confusing. Tennyson uses these words along with alliteration, “clasps, crag, crooked, close” and a lot of symbolism in order to create more depth to the poem and to get his point across to the reader. Perhaps the most important symbols in the poem are “crag” and also the phrase “he falls”. “Crag” symbolizes life. He is holding onto life. “He falls” symbolizes dying.
This Eagle is a very inspiring piece. On its outer skin it describes an eagle, the symbol of America, freedom. Although it is a poem from Britain, it could very easily have roots in America. Feeling very strongly about America and the freedom that it provides, The Eagle is perhaps the best definition of life living in a free country. You live free and as long as you hold on to life in your later years you are free and the moment you are dying, you die free.