Does the line "The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls" reveal the eagle's pride?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Individual readers are going to interpret this line differently. For me personally, no, I do not think "the wrinkled sea beneath him crawls" shows the eagle's pride.

On one hand, the line is very literal. The eagle is a soaring bird with great vision. It is capable of flying quite high with minimal effort. Its vision allows it to scan and spot targets from a great distance away. When you are far away from something, it appears to barely move. Think of a road trip. The trees along the roadside blur past your car, but the mountains in the distance barely appear to move at all. If you've ever had a window seat on an airplane, you've seen the same effect. The plane might be moving hundreds of miles per hour; however, the ground beneath you appears to slowly inch by. This is what the line in the poem is indicating. The eagle is very high up, and the ocean appears to crawl by. Additionally, we know the eagle is high up because the great waves of the ocean appear to be merely wrinkles.

If I'm forced to find additional meaning from the line, I think it shows the eagle acting from a place of privilege. This doesn't automatically equate to pridefulness. Rulers and kings are usually seated at a place of elevation, or they have a castle on the hill. Being higher than someone else usually connotes power and privilege. The eagle is in a powerful and privileged position, which is why it is such an effective predator, but again, that doesn't necessarily mean prideful.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The eagle in Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Eagle" is undoubtedly a noble figure, and "The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls" can easily be interpreted as a sign of the eagle's pride. The line contributes to an overall image of superior integrity, as the vast and powerful ocean is literally "beneath" the eagle, and it is "wrinkled" and "crawls" more like a small mammal than an immense force of nature. It suggests that the power and dignity (perhaps termed "pride") of the eagle eclipses everything else in the scene.

The other lines in this brief poem contribute to the mood and tone created by the line "The wrinkled sea." The eagle is such a singular being; rather than being a dot in the sky, the sky revolves around him: "Ring'd with the azure world, he stands." Even when the eagle makes his descent, he is not stooping to a lower level, but falling "like a thunderbolt," which is to say, with great natural power. The eagle's sense of presence and command of his surroundings surpasses the enormity of both the ocean and the sky.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial