Why does the poet use "He" to describe the bird in "The Eagle"?

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Tennyson does not say anywhere in this very short poem who or what he is actually describing, except in the title. This is interesting because, without the title, the poem could easily be misconstrued as being about a king or some other ruler in a high castle, watching the world below "from his mountain walls." This effect is largely due to the considered use of the "he" pronoun, which has a humanizing effect. The eagle in the poem seems majestic and commanding, something that could not easily be achieved if it were described using the pronoun "it." Note also the use of other words which have a personifying effect: the eagle is described as having "hands," which of course an eagle does not really have, and he also "stands," which seems a curiously human choice of verb for a bird. Birds might more usually be said to "perch," rather than "stand."

The "he" pronoun, then, helps Tennyson convey his desired effect of the eagle as a powerful and commanding being, the master of all he surveys.

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I think Tennyson is trying to do one of two things by using the pronoun "he" to describe the bird.  He could be trying to elevate and equate the bird with humans, or Tennyson could be trying to illustrate to his readers that mankind and birds (animals) are equivalent.  By using "he," Tennyson makes mankind and the bird equivalent, because the pronoun is now being used for both species (instead of "it" for the bird).  

The pronoun usage makes sense when you think about Tennyson being a Victorian author.  Victorian authors are writing their stuff at the same time that Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species.  The book was a breakthrough piece and extremely controversial, because it showed humans as completely interrelated with other animals.  The book showed that we are descended from a common ancestral species.  Tennyson's poem gives the bird the same quality as humans, because he uses a human pronoun to describe the bird. 

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