Thursday, March 22, 2012

"The Eagle" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


The Eagle 
BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON 
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands. 
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
First Essay:

"The Eagle" is a fragment of mere six lines written by Alfred Tennyson. It depicts a sustained visual image of the eagle as located high in the sky. This poem can be treated as a descriptive or symbolic poem. On the one hand, the poet gives a very beautiful picture of this frightening bird. On the other hand, he seems to use the eagle as a symbol of authority and power, whereas the sea is the weak people who surrender to it. Employing two different tones and sublime rhetorical devices. Tennyson clearly indicates his vision of strength and power. 


"The Eagle" represents a major theme which is how the images of power suppresses that of inferiority. The poem tells readers of a series of things the eagle does. "He" clings to the mountain crag, high up near the sun and surrounded by the blue sky. The bird soaring in the sky has always been an example of freedom from the bonds of gravity, which anchors plants, people and most animals to the earth. The eagle in this poem is pictures "close to the sun". This is another symbol of high-flying freedom that is not controlled by the limitations of the earth's atmosphere. This area of the sky just inside of and barely contained by the "azure world" of outer space, is what is meant by "lonely lands". Loneliness implies detachment or a lack of responsibility to any other thing. Referring to the eagle's perch as a different land once more enforces the idea that it is free of the rules and constraints that govern the lands of the earth. On the contrary, Tennyson gives a picture of weakness and subordination of the world under the sky. Looking down from his castle upon the mountain, the seas's movement appears to be slow. Then, he falls like lightening on his unspecified prey.

Tennyson employs some figures of speech to portray the contradictory images of power and weakness. There is a sustained personification as the poet compares the eagle to a powerful man. The bird of the prey is presented in human terms - never "it" or "the eagle" (outside the title) but always "he" - and the talons are "crooked hands," rather than claws. This shows how the eagle represents the tone of power and force, domination and good observation. There is another personification as the poet compares the waves of the sea to the slow and weak movement of the young baby. This draws an image of weakness and subordination. Tennyson is, symbolically, telling us about human beings, not animals. The phrase "like a thunderbolt" is a simile that describes the speed and energy of the eagle's flight. This creates an image of power and superiority.

The poem, though short, is on a grand scale in its vocabulary. In six lines, Tennyson mentions the sun, the azure world (presumably the eagle's blue domain of the sky) and the sea, finally linking the eagle to the lightening. The words "clasps" and "crooked" indicate majesty, freedom and power. There is a juxtaposition between the first and the second stanza as the poet uses some words such as "wrinkled" and "crawls" in contrast with "clasps" and "stands". This creates a sense of comparison between power and weakness. By bringing the "sun" in to describe how high up in the air the eagle is, Tennyson uses hyperbole to associate the eagle with a sense of grand majesty. This implies that the eagle is so confident of its own ability. Generally, the poem is made up of a series of verbs that depicts the eagle's action; "clasps, stands, watches, falls." The eagle seems majestic and awe-inspiring.

Besides, this short poem displays a strong musical sense. The rhyme scheme is regular as AAA BBB which creates a sense of harmony and power. The words chose, such as "crag, azure and thunderbolt," not only fit the meaning of the poem but also fit the slow musical sensibility which gives the poem its thoughtful tone. There is alliteration with the words "clasp, crag and crooked". The hard /K/ sound that begins each of these words establishes a hard, sharp tenor that fits in with the idea of the eagle's similarly hard, sharp life. There is also an alliteration of /l/ sound in "lonely lands" to show the superiority and uniqueness of the authority.

In conclusion, Tennyson describes this element of nature to show to link between human life and physical world. Here, he depicts the eagle in extreme terms as a powerful force of nature. The eagle's life as a preying bird reflects the poem's symbolic topic. This makes "him" even appear like a super creature. The eagle is depicted in a state of stillness; a posture of might and power. 


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Second Essay:

This poem is a short lyric written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson who was a prominent figure of the Victorian Age. The poem represents a major theme which is the image of power and how superiority can dominate inferiority. Tennyson employs two different tones to indicate the contradictory images. He uses some rhetorical devices to indicate the meaning either explicitly or implicitly.

Tennyson portrays a visual image of the eagle as he is placed in a high position in the sky. On the contrary, he depicts an image of weakness and subordination as he describes the world under the sky. In addition, the poem has a symbolic level as Tennyson wants to show how the authority in the Victorian Age can exploit and manipulate common people. He uses the eagle as a symbol of tyranny of authority as it is related to high position. On the contrary, the sea is personified as an old man or a young baby to show the image of weakness.

Tennyson employs some figures of speech to portray the contradictory images of power and weakness. There is a sustained personification as the poet compares the eagle to a powerful man who represent domination and good observer. It shows how the eagle represents the tone of power and force. Moreover, there is another personification as the poet compares the waves of the sea to the slow and weak movement of the young baby. It connotes the image of weakness and subordination. Furthermore, there is a simile in the last line as he compares the quick movement of the eagle to the thunderbolt. It creates an image of power and cunning behavior. The eagle observes the slow movement of the prey in order to catch it.

Tennyson employs powerful diction to symbolize the implicit political meaning of the poem. The words "clasps" and "crooked" are connotations of power. In addition, there is a juxtaposition between the first and the second stanza as the poet uses some words to show the contrast between power and weakness such as "clasps" and "stud" against "wrinkled" and "crawls".

Tennyson uses some sound devices to represent the perfect and mighty image of the eagle. The rhyme scheme is regular as AAA BBB. It creates a sense of harmony and power. There is an alliteration of the /k/ sound in "clasp", "cry" and "crooked". It is a harsh consonant to show the power and domination of the eagle. There is an alliteration of /l/ sound in "lonely lands" to show the superiority and uniqueness of the authority.

In conclusion, Tennyson is interested in the description of an element of nature to show how he links between social life and nature. He uses his wit to imply certain social and political issues to indicate superiority and inferiority.