Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Eagle” is considered a fragment for its shortness in verse. It merely talks about the powerful features of a bird by means of using figurative language most particularly by personification. In the first stanza of the poem, Tennyson described the bird’s position as, “He clasps the crag with crooked hands; / Close to the sun in lonely lands, / Ring’d with the azure world, he stands” (Tennyson 369). The first line has already established the powerful aura of the eagle as it describes “him” clasping the peak of a mountain where he is located. Clasping is commonly associated with holding something in tight grip, however, in this poem the eagle is actually referred to as a “he” or a person. The crag also symbolizes the topmost area of a mountain; therefore, it places the eagle in a high position above other things. The first stanza also establishes the surroundings of the eagle where he is described as close to the sun and surrounded by the wide blue sky. By seeing that he stands among these heavenly bodies, his character greatly emphasized his great strength and power.
The eagle’s majestic image is further strengthened in the second and last stanza where the sea is presented as wrinkled and crawling beneath him. The wrinkle of the sea and its crawling image produce an imagery of a king being served and worshipped by his servants. The “mountain walls” also portray a similar image of a giant castle wall which separates a royal castle from the less regal creatures outside.
However, the last line claims that the eagle falls amidst the establishment of his great power. According to critics, it is possible that the poet intends to produce two ironic interpretations. “Tennyson wants us to see the eagle as both a swift predator and a powerful bird who is nonetheless susceptible to defeat by other forces (quite possibly human)” (“The Eagle”).
Tennyson, Alfred. The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson: With an Introduction and
Bibliography. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1994.
“The Eagle.” Enotes. 17 November 2008 ;http://www.enotes.com/eagle;.