What are the romantic features of the poem "The Eagle" that combine nature with the poet?

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I think the main Romantic trait in "The Eagle" is the way Tennyson's imagery is meant to evoke the sublime. Edmund Burke connected the sublime to strong emotional responses -- beholding the sublime evoked in the viewer strong feelings of awe, terror, or dread. Nature, of course, was the greatest source of the sublime.

Tennyson's poem is extremely visual. His viewpoint, as poet, is to share the eagle's perch. Through the poet, we experience the awesome height: we can see how "his crooked hands" grasp the rock of the cliff; we are so high we are "close to the sun." It is as if the eagle and the wide blue horizon of the earth are one ("Ring'd with the azure world, he stands").

In the second stanza, awe turns to dread or exhilaration, as Tennyson contrasts the extreme height of the eagle ("The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls") with the incredible speed and power of his sudden dive ("like a thunderbolt he falls"). There is a sense that when the eagle falls, the reader falls with it -- that we share in the sublime power of the eagle.

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Critic Herbert F. Tucker wrote of Tennyson's poetry:

Tennyson’s theme and imagery gravitate toward some inevitable ground on the power of God, the drift of nature, or the obsessions of human nature.

Romanticism is a literary movement that celebrates nature, beauty, and the imagination. In Tennyson's "The Eagle," the speaker seems to follow the movements of the majestic eagle. Here are some of the elements of Romanticism present in this poem:

  • Emphasis on individual experience: The eagle is central to the action of the poem; he watches from atop a rock. Then, when he sees a fish in the sea, he dives like "a thunderbolt."
  • Celebration of nature, beauty, and imagination: Lines such as "Ringed with the azure world, he stands" and "the wrinkled sea beneath him crawls" have vivid imagery in their descriptions of the beauty of nature. The power of imagination is evinced in the simile of how the eagle falls upon his prey "from his mountain walls" In addition, there is a rather optimistic view of Nature and the eagle seems powerful, independent, and very strong.

This poem, like many written during the Romantic movement, is inspiring due to its appeals to the senses of the reader or listener. For instance, when the eagle dives, the reader can almost sense the energy conveyed by the word "thunderbolts." Certainly, this poem appeals to the imagination of its reader.

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