The expression "crooked hands" is significant. Tennyson uses it when we might expect him to use "claws" or "feet" instead. What he's doing here is emphasizing certain characteristics of the eagle that set him apart from the natural world around him. The eagle, as an animal, is part of that world, but at the same time there's something almost human about him and the way he conquers nature with his dramatic swoops and turns.
If we accept, as some critics do, that the eagle is a metaphor for Arthur Hallam, Tennyson's late friend, then we can understand more easily why the poet endows the eagle with such human qualities. Hallam occupied this earth for only a short time; yet during his brief life there was something different about him, something that set him apart from the world in which he lived.
The eagle as metaphor for Hallam also applies to the line, "Close to the sun in lonely lands." Hallam was close to the sun in the sense that he was, for Tennyson, one of its brightest rays of light....
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