The Eagle (poem)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson lived during the Victorian Era during the 1800s. This era is widely known for the Romanticism movement in the literary culture. Tennyson was often referred as one of the main representatives of poetry during the Victorian era due to his growing popularity both during and after his time. Romanticism was a reaction to The Enlightenment or the notion that human actions were guided by other forces. The movement as a whole emphasized feeling over thought, and was characterized by imagination, individualism, and freedom. Romantic poets often focused on the idea that nature is beautiful and to understand life, humans must appreciate nature. "The Eagle" shows Tennyson's appreciation of nature.
Although Tennyson has a reputation of a quiet, polite Englishman among other literary figures, he was once part of a small group who traveled to the border of Spain to deliver money and messages to Spanish Revolutionaries. While he did eventually fall out of the project, he came to enjoy the Pyrenees Mountain Range. This mountain range on the border of France and Spain came to be his favorite place, along with the nearby valley called the Cauteretz. "The Eagle" was inspired by Tennyson's frequent travels to the Pyrenees. He frequently saw eagles, raptors, and other birds of prey circling above him in this area. In the poem, Tennyson opted to create an imaginary setting of cliffs by the sea, instead of the mountainside. Tennyson is known for his imagery and transcendental vantage points.
Although iambic pentameter was the popular rhyme scheme of the time, Tennyson wrote this poem in iambic tetrameter. The end rhymes adds to the lyrical sense of the poem and the soothing, soaring nature of eagle. This poem is one of Lord Tennyson's shortest pieces of literature. It is composed of two stanza, three lines each. Contrary to the length, the poem is full of deeper meaning and figurative language.
Often literary scholars believe the poem is short to emphasize the deeper meaning in nature itself, that the reader has to find themselves. Tennyson's use of alliteration in the words clasps, crag and crooked, in the first line is meant to sound like a melody and make it harder to pass over. This technique makes a reader stop and consider the meaning of the line; this also draws attention to the eagle, making it seem even more important than just a bird. He continually draws emphasis to the eagle, making it seem regal and better than the average human. This idea, of nature being better than humans, is part of Romanticism.
Due to its title, the poem is generally considered an incomplete piece of work. However, some literary critics believe that the poem is, in fact, complete due to the overall symbolism within the poem. Scholars argued that the fragment is a symbol for the eagle due to the eagle "breaking away" from the mountain. They say that the fragment is vital to understanding the poem in the way that the mountain depicted is in fact the whole poem and the eagle, being a part of the mountains identity, is a loss when the eagle falls. The uncertainty of the poem being complete or incomplete reinforces the open ended question of what happens to the eagle at the end of the poem.
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- Jackson, Marette (September 1, 1984). "Tennyson's The Eagle". Explicator. 43.1: 26. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
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