The Eagle Alfred Lord Tennyson
Introduction: The eagle is a rare bird and cannot be sighted easily. It is a bird of prey. The poet is talking about the regal eagle in this poem. This poem is one of the shortest poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, with just two stanzas of three lines each. The first stanza is the depiction of an immobile eagle.
Clasps – grasp or hold tightly with hands
This is how the eagle is holding on to the cliff edge; I don’t think he will fall.
Crag – mountain/ rock face
Crooked – curved/ bent
This word describes the eagle’s hands. You can say ‘Eagles don’t have hands’ but I think we can let the poet get away with it! They are claws and are rough and bent.
Azure – bright blue colour (colour of the bright blue sky)
Wrinkled – lines or folds in something
The sea is wrinkled; it is full of lines and folds in the waves.
Crawls – moves slowly – perhaps along the surface.
This word describes how the sea is moving slowly.
Thunderbolt – crash of thunder / A flash of lightning with a simultaneous crash of thunder.
Summary of The Eagle
‘The Eagle’ is one of the shortest poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The poem has only two stanzas, each with three lines. It is, however, full of figurative language and deeper meaning.
The poet focuses on an eagle that lives alone on the top of a mountain. He is high up in the air so where no other animal or human can go. He is alone in his grandeur, with the sun and the bright blue sky forming the perfect background scenery.
The phrases “close to the sun”, “the wrinkled sea beneath him crawls”; “he watches from his mountain walls”, effectively suggest that he is high up in the air where nobody can reach. “He clasps the crag with crooked hands” suggests that he is holding on with his hands just as a human.
In a way, the eagle symbolizes men who have power and authority. “in lonely lands” can shows the eagle’s lonely life as he lives high up in the air, which ultimately suggests the isolation and lonely lives of famous, powerful people. The eagle appears to be proud to be atop of all which gives him the controlling power.
The second stanza depicts the action of the eagle. The first and second lines further underscore the notion that the eagle is watching from the top, his high throne, even the sea below him. The final line shows that the eagle is making a great dive to the sea. The action of the Eagle shows a sudden, abrupt action over his prey, which again symbolises the exercise of authority by the powerful over the powerless. The eagle is thus depicted as a symbol of power.
Tennyson’s The Eagle shows an emphasis on the appreciation of nature. It is a natural poem celebrating the beauty and strength of the eagle. It also has a deeper meaning. The poet also suggests the destructive existence of the eagle. Moreover, while it is a very short poem, it is full of figurative expressions.
The Eagle | Solved Questions
1. Where is the eagle perched? What do you think he is able to see from his perch?
Ans: The eagle is perched on the rocky mountain. It looks like the eagle is watching around to find its prey as the vision of the eagle is very sharp and can find its prey from a very far distance.
2. Which line in the poem suggests that the eagle likes to stay away from human habitation?
Ans: “Close to the sun in lonely lands”, this lines suggests that the eagle stays in isolated areas; usually sits on a mountain. Mountains are far away from human habitation.
3. The eagle’s perch is a good lookout or vantage point for him. Justify this statement?
Ans: The eagle’s perch is a good lookout for an eagle because an eagle can look at everything from the perch and can also look for its prey, as the vision of an eagle is very sharp and clear.
4.Which expression conveys the speed and accuracy of the bird?
Ans: “And like a thunderbolt, he falls”; the speed and accuracy of the bird is conveyed through comparison of thunderbolt with the eagle speed.
5. How does the poet describe the eagle in the poem?
Ans: The poet describes the eagle as a being that is unique, fast, and prestigious.
6. What feeling does the reader get on reading about the image of the eagle in the poem?
Ans: The reader feels very excited on reading about the image of the eagle in the poem. The reader feels that the eagle is an incredible animal that has a unique shape and stays in very high altitudes. It is very daring and powerful.
Very Short Questions
1. As you think, where is the eagle as described in the first stanza?
Ans. On a mountain or cliff.
2. What are the words used by the poet to describe the appearance and actions of the eagle?
Ans. Clasps the crag with crooked hands/ like a thunderbolt he falls.
3. Write down the phrases which suggest that the Eagle is in a higher place.
Ans. Close to the sun / Ring’d with the azure world/ the wrinkled sea beneath him
He watches him from his mountain.
4. What is the word the poet used to describe the movement of the sea?
5. How does the poet indicate the abrupt swooping down of the eagle?
Ans. Using a simile, like a thunderbolt.
Alliteration (a repetition of similar consonant sounds in the beginning of words) –
- clasps, crag, crooked.
- lonely land
This technique has used to emphasize the appearance and position of the eagle. Similarly, it creates the fierceness of the eagle by suggesting the way he grasps onto the mountain cliff.
Further, the alliteration creates a specific melody.
Hyperbole (extreme exaggeration)
- “close to the sun”
This device emphasizes this eagle is not a simple one. The poet highlights his majestic, royal nature.
Personification (give human traits to inhuman objects.)
- He clasps the crag with crooked hands …….. he stands
This personification gives the idea that the eagle seems much more important than just an ordinary, simple bird.
Rhyming words –
- 1st stanza – “hands, lands, stands”
- 2nd stanza – “Crawls, walls, falls”
Imagery (words that appeal to the five senses)
Visual images – The word azure literally means bright blue. The poet creates visual image of this eagle, sitting on a top of a mountain, high above all and the bright blue sky is around him and the sun is blazing.
Tennyson is able to create a very impressive, colorful visual image in the readers’ mind.
Auditory images –
- “Like a thunderbolt he fall”
The word “Thunderbolt” creates an auditory image.
“The Wrinkled sea “
This metaphor suggests the waves in the ocean.
“like a thunderbolt he falls”
This simile suggests the sudden, quick action of the eagle or the way he dives probably on a prey.
Some critics say that the “mountain walls” may echo the myth of Prometheus, the hero who rebelled against the gods and for his punishment was chained to mountain walls.
Reading is Fun | Textual Questions
Q. 1. How does the eagle stand on the mountains?
Ans. The eagle stands on the rocky mountains by clasping the rock with his crooked hands.
Q. 2. What does the eagle do, on the mountains?
Ans. The eagle watches “the wrinkled sea” down below before he makes his move and falls “like a thunderbolt.”
Q. 3. What is the eagle compared to in the end? Why?
Ans. The eagle is compared to a thunderbolt which means a flash of light with thunder. Because it descends towards earth swiftly as a thunderbolt to catch its prey.
Q. 4. Pick out the rhyming words from the poem.
Ans. The rhyming words from the poem are:
- 1st stanza – “hands, lands, stands”
- 2nd stanza – “Crawls, walls, falls”
A. Complete the summary of the poem by filling in the words from the box:
The eagle uses it …………………. to hold on to the steep …………………., high up in the sky. It is free to fly anywhere in the blue sky. The world beneath appears very small from, height. Above the mountains, the eagle looks upon the ………………….. which seems like a ……………………. baby. When the sharp vision of the eagle spots its prey, it ………………………… towards the earth quick as a thunderbolt.
crawling, ocean, rocks, descend, claws
Ans. The eagle uses it claws to hold on to the steep rocks, high up in the sky. It is free to fly anywhere in the blue sky. The world beneath appears very small from the height. Above the mountains, the eagle looks upon the ocean which seems like a crawling baby. When the sharp vision of the eagle spots its prey, it descends towards the earth quick as a thunderbolt.
B. Write down the names of the objects of nature that appear in the poem.
Ans. Crag, Sun, Land, Sea, Mountains, Thunderbolt
Which is your favourite bird? Tell your class about it?
Write down the names of birds found in your area/region. Write a short description of any two of them. Learn the vernacular names of these birds.
Names of some birds found in our area are:
Pigeon, Parrot, Hawk, Crow, Sparrow, Mynah, Bulbul, Koel, Eagle, Pigeon, etc.