The Eagle Questions and Answers
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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What two things are being compared in Tennyson's "The Eagle"?

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Susan Woodward, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The eagle is being compared to a thunderbolt in line six using a simile: "And like a thunderbolt he falls."  In the first part of Tennyson's poem, we see the eagle perched high upon a mountain, "close to the sun", where he "clasps the crag with crooked hands".  Tennyson's imagery helps the reader to see him "ringed with the azure world", surrounded by blue skies as he is perched so high above "the wrinkled sea".  The thunderbolt was a good choice of simile because it tells the reader just how fast the eagle is diving, presumably towards its prey in the sea.  I do not agree with those who say that the eagle is falling dead at the end of the poem.  If that were so, Tennyson would not have compared the eagle to a thunderbolt, which is powerful and moves in a downward fashion with great force.  A dead eagle would not move in that way, but more like a rock dropping from the top of the mountain.

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lingerer | Student

But thunderbolt won't last long, so the eagle actually dies in the last.