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The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson

“The Eagle” is a poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1851, when he was Poet Laureate of Great Britain. “The Eagle” is a short poem, only six lines longs, with rhyming triplets.

The text of “The Eagle” is: “He clasps the crag with crooked hands/Close to the sun in lonely lands/Ring’d with the azure world, he stands/The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls/He watches from his mountain walls/And like a thunderbolt he falls.”

The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The poem was dedicated to Tennyson’s great friend Arthur Henry Hallam and the image of the eagle can be seen as a metaphor, especially in the last line, when one understands that “falls” can mean both the action of the eagle swooping down from the sky, or an untimely early death that comes “like a thunderbolt.” Hallam and Tennyson had been close friends at Cambridge, and Tennyson was deeply moved by Hallam’s death from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1833 at the age of 22.

Tennyson employs both plosive consonants, seen through the alliteration of the “c” in the first line, and /ae/ vowel sound in order to convey the power of the eagle. This deliberate sound structure moves the brevity of the poem into onomatopoeia that conveys the idea of the flight and power of the eagle.

The overall image conveyed by the poem is that of a powerful creature that dominates nature. Even the sea itself is insignificant and old in the face of the powerful eagle.

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