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

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Gracie O'Hara eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"The Eagle" by Lord Alfred Tennyson is a short poem, consisting of two three-line stanzas. It is a purely descriptive poem written in the third person. The narrator is an impersonal voice describing the eagle; no information about the narrator is provided in the poem.

The first stanza describes the eagle perched on a rocky outcropping. It is clasping the rocks with its talons and appears framed against the sky and sun from the narrator's perspective.

In the second stanza, the narrator informs us that the crag on which the eagle is perched is close to the sea. In the last line of the poem, the eagle is described as falling like a thunderbolt. This suggests that the eagle in question is a type of sea or fish eagle and is diving to grab a fish from the water.

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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.

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