What is the poem "The Eagle" by Lord Alfred Tennyson about?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This little gem of a poem packs quite a vivid description of an eagle into a mere 6 lines!  The poem describes a lone eagle as it perches on a stoney outcrop above water below.  In the last line of the poem, the eagle takes flight and soars down to possibly catch some prey.  The poem is filled with alliteration in the first line with all of the harsh "c" sounds:  He clasps the crag of crooked hands."  His isolation is emphasized by the alliteration in line 2 "lonely lands."  There is a wonderful description of how the water would look from above when it is described as a "wrinkled sea" that "crawls."  The last line of the poem plays off of an allusion to the might Zeus whose symbol/weapon is the lightning bolt.  The line says that the eagle falls like a lightning bolt suggesting speed and power as he launches off his mountain wall down towards to the water below.