Anaylsis of Alfred Lord Tennyson's - The Eagle

Essay by yasmine October 2002

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In the poem, The Eagle: A Fragment, Alfred Lord Tennyson questions the position of man in the universe and demonstrates how his existence is transient and fleeting. The word "fragment" in the title of the poem shows immediately that he believes that man is just a trivial piece of insignificance. Many Victorian poets used nature, or natural events, such as snow, rain, or landscapes to convey their messages. Tennyson uses the same technique by using the eagle to portray man. The eagle is set against the azure sky and mountain to demonstrate the smallness of man against nature.

Tennyson's short poem, consists of only two stanzas, is one of pure imagery. In the first description of the eagle it is digging its talons into the side of a mountain. The eagle, the ultimate bird of prey, with strength, size, gracefulness, keen vision and power of flight, is pictured as isolated and alone.

The bird, symbolizing man, is known for his power and strength but seems rather small against its surroundings. Although the eagle is alone and small against nature, its majestic stereotype is maintained by the placement of the bird at great height or as the poem states, "Close to the sun." The eagle, at its great height, is a representation of a man at the peak of his life, clinging on desperately and the mountain represents the universe. Similar to the eagle's smallness as compared to the mountain, is man's as compared to the universe. The man is lonely in that he must enter and leave the world alone.

The second depiction of the eagle compares it to a thunderbolt falling from the mountain.

Just as the eagle is a part or fragment of the mountain, the man is a part of the universe and they both leave when...