What literary device is used in the phrase "with crooked hands" in "The Eagle" by Lord Tennyson?

Expert Answers
amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this brief poem, "crooked hands" is being used to describe an eagle's crooked claws. The eagle, often described as a noble and regal creature, is old and decrepit. The eagle still sits high on a crag (a steep rocky cliff), so it still appears to be in a "lofty" position. But it's age is significant here. The eagle is still high ("close to the sun") but it is about to fall, presumably to its death. This notion does conjure the myth of Icarus. But in paying more attention to the subject of age, the poem shows how even the strongest, most regal of creatures inevitably ages and dies. With that aging, the eagle's strength diminishes and its appearance and abilities decay as well. Although this is downright pessimistic, one could infer that an additional theme is how fleeting life is. Therefore, one should appreciate life because, as the poem shows, nothing is permanent. 

When the speaker uses "crooked hands" to describe the eagle's arthritic claws, he is using personification. This is a literary device in which a writer gives human qualities to an animal, some other object, or an idea. By using personification, the writer suggests that a human being will suffer the same fate as the eagle. No matter how noble or strong one may be in life, aging affects everyone.