The Eagle Poem by Alfred Tennyson Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Eagle” captures the speed and agility of the king of birds. The poem’s shortness refers to an eagle prepared to pounce on its prey. It stands guard over the metaphorical “wrinkled sea” creeping below, like a king or queen of nature. The bird’s quickness and ability undoubtedly awe the poet. Ted Hughes found inspiration in Tennyson’s poem “The Eagle.” The Tennysonian approach served as inspiration for his poem “Hawk Roosting.”

About the poet

During Queen Victoria’s reign, English poet Alfred Tennyson served as Poet Laureate. For his debut composition, “Timbuktu,” he received the Chancellor’s Gold Medal at Cambridge in 1829. Poems, Chiefly Lyrical, his first solo collection of poetry, was released in 1830. He also composed some remarkable blank verses. His poetry was based on traditional mythical themes, such as those seen in “Ulysses.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, he ranks as the seventh most often cited author.


Stanza 1

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

This poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson opens with a description of an eagle perched on a crag, which is a rocky, exposed cliff face. Tennyson also employs personification and alliteration to give the eagle human-like characteristics. These lines’ straightforward rhyme structure propels the poem ahead in contrast to Tennyson’s grandiose imagery. The eagle stands as though ruling the plains below him, evoking a strong sense of authority and intelligence in addition to the typical connotations of independence and bravery connected with eagles.

Stanza 2

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt he falls.

The eagle is perched on a cliff that protrudes into the water. The eagle’s dominant position on the rocks is once again emphasized in the second stanza, where he is perched well above everything else and able to “watch” what is happening below and around him. The eagle drops from his perch and plunges towards the waters below during the third line’s strong transition from the second line. Tennyson also refers to the mountain walls as the eagle’s walls, as though the eagle owns ownership of this territory and is the only animal able to access it. The eagle is referred to as a “thunderbolt” in the final line by Tennyson, which alludes to his godlike might in this realm and may possibly prompt a direct parallel to the god Zeus.