The Eagle Questions and Answers
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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What is a line by line explanation of the poetic devices in "The Eagle" by Alfred Lord Tennyson?

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"The Eagle" begins with alliteration, a device Tennyson employs throughout the poem. The repeated "c" sounds also emphasize the suggestion of hypallage in "crooked," which applies to the eagle's talons and the crag itself. This connection helps show the connection of the eagle to its environment. The eagle is also "personified" by the use of the word "he" (as opposed to "it") and "hands."

The second line, along with using more alliteration, employs hyperbole. From the perspective of one looking up at the eagle, he appears close to the sun, whereas he is really only fractionally closer than the observer. This perspective, which centers the eagle and emphasizes his majesty, is continued in the phrase "Ringed with the azure world." This phrasing implies that the whole sky is merely providing a frame for the eagle.

In the second stanza, the slowness of the "wrinkled sea" crawling is contrasted with the sudden speed the eagle can muster. Again, the eagle is personified by the fact that his perch on the mountain has walls like a castle. However, the final image is of the eagle as a dynamic force of nature. Tennyson uses a simile that compares him to a thunderbolt. In Greek mythology, the eagle was the messenger and companion of Zeus. Zeus would communicate his displeasure to mankind by hurling thunderbolts, so this final dramatic image associates the eagle with divine power.

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