What is the structure of the poem "The Eagle" by Tennyson?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Eagle" is a six line poem. It is written using two tercets (stanzas containing three lines). For the most part, the meter of the poem is iambic tetrameter. An iamb is a metric foot which contains an unstressed (represented by "du") then stressed ("DUM") syllables (du-DUM). Tetrameter means that there are four sets of iambs in the poetic line (du-DUM / du-DUM / du-DUM / du-DUM). 

At two points in the poem Tennyson diverges from the iambic tetrameter. Both lines two an three begin with a trochee (the opposite of an iamb--"DUM-du"). The meter of these two lines looks like this: DUM-du / du-DUM / du-DUM / du-DUM. 

The rhyme scheme of the poem is in triplets. What this means is that the last word in each line (of each individual stanza) rhyme. This results in an aaa bbb rhyme scheme. (To explain further, the last word each of the first three lines are hands, lands, stands. All three lines rhyme with one another. Likewise, the last word in each of the three lines in the second stanza are crawls, walls, and falls (which all rhyme).)

Tennyson applies both personification and alliteration to the poem as well. He personifies the eagle by giving him "crooked hands" and allowing the sea to crawl. Alliteration, the repetition of a consonant sound within a line of poetry, is seen throughout. For example, the repeated "k" sound of clasps, crag, and crooked signal alliteration. 


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