In the poem "The Eagle", does the line "And like a thunderbolt he falls" mean the eagle dies?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although there has been some discussion over the years as to the meaning of the last line of the poem, the most common interpretation is that the eagle does indeed die, a victim of old age and infirmity.  The reason for the more popular acceptance of this interpretation over one which would have the eagle plummeting purposefully down to earth before soaring once again in the sky is because of the themes Tennyson brings out in the rest of the poem.  Although the author paints a portrait of the eagle as majestic and strong, standing high above "the azure world", in line 2 he makes an allusion to the myth of Icarus, who after getting too close to the sun, falls to the earth and dies.  He also speaks of "walls", a symbol of limitations.  It is most commonly understood that by having the eagle fall unintentionally from the mountain to his death, Tennyson is making a statement about the inevitable destructablily of even the mightiest of creatures.

ibrahim98 | Student

This can either have two meanings either that he did indeed die, or he was searching for his prey and he swept down like a thunderbolt to catch it.

quoter | Student

The eagle does not die because he dove to catch his prey.
If he had died he would fall from the cliff like a rock not like a thunderbolt.The thunderbolt is a sign of great speed of the eagle.

Many people say he died because in the 1st line the poet says he Stands but then falls like a thunderbolt.
So the thunderbolt and fall symbolize Death.

gengin11 | Student

i wouldn't say that he dies, but that is certainly an interpretation- that it was meant to be ironic. 

the first thing i thought of was that the eagle searches for prey from up high in the sky, and when he spots his prey, he strikes. he strikes with the power of a thunderbolt

but a friend of mine thought of Zeus and his thunderbolt. "Close to the sun..." so the eagle is high up in the sky as Zeus lives on Mount Olympus in the sky

still, the story of icarus draws the most similarities