The Eagle: by Alfred Lord Tennyson - Summary & Analysis

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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.

      Introduction: The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson, which was first published in the year 1851, like a painter, with the strokes of words, delineates a fragment of picture - a particular momentary scene where a bird - the eagle- is the center of attention. Within this short periphery we notice Tennyson's mastery in detailed observation.

      Summary: The eagle is the protagonist of the action. The eagle is sitting on a rock jutting out from the mountain. He is grasping the rock with his gnarled feet. He is the lonely figure and the sun and blue sky serve as a backdrop of this scene infused with solitude. Below, the ripples of the sea with a slow, uniform motion, as indicated by the word 'crawls', touch the foot of the mountain. And then, suddenly the bird comes down with a sudden sweep as swiftly as a flash of lighting. Tennyson aptly uses the pronoun 'he’ instead of 'it' to lend the creature with a majestic attribution.

      Analysis: The use of adjectives like 'Ring'd' and 'wrinkled' are unique in application. In this context we can refer to S.A. Brooke's comment on the poem. He used to believe the phrase 'wrinkled sea' was too bold but after experiencing the same scenic beauty he found Tennyson's words are the most appropriate to give vent to his emotions. The phrase 'wrinkled sea' emerges with the appropriateness of the meaning allied with vividness appealing to all his senses. The bird was sitting an a jutted-out rock, he was watching 'from his mountain walls' - here nature belongs to him, he is the king, a majestic overtone is suggested by the word 'his' then suddenly like a 'thunderbolt' he comes down may be targeting any prey. The simile 'like a thunderbolt' is a vivid picture that suggests the sudden sweeping flight of the bird.

The word 'thunderbolt' indicates strength.

      The poem is purely objective in nature which can be properly justified in the words of Stopford Brooke: "Mainly, speaking, the difference between Wordsworth and Tennyson as poets of Nature consist in the absence from Tennyson's mind of any belief or conception of a life of nature. He described Nature, on the whole, as she was to his senses, as she appeared on the outside. He did it with extraordinary skill, observation, accuracy and magnificence. He did not conceive Nature as alive. He did not love her as a Living Being, as Wordsworth did. As a poet of Nature, he is vivid, accurate, lively but cold."

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