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Analysis

The Eagle

Symbol Analysis

The eagle doesn't do a whole heck of a lot in this poem, but that's OK. We're so conditioned to think of eagles as majestic and free that we're willing to forgive this one for a little inactivity until he puts on a show at the end. The eagle is male and may represent some kind of masculine ideal. Its actions are described very modestly by very four subject-verb pairings: "he clasps," "he stands," "he watches," "he falls." Interestingly, all of these behaviors, including falling, are passive. The eagle never breaks a sweat.

  • Lines 2: These lines practically bop you over the head with alliteration, with the use of hard "c" sounds in the words "clasps," "crag," "crooked," and "close." Also, the eagle's claws are personified as "crooked hands," as if the eagle were a person with a really terrible case of arthritis. For the record, he isn't, and doesn't.
  • Line 6: The phrase "like a thunderbolt" is a simile that describes the speed and energy of the eagle's flight. The word "falls" is a deliberate understatement. What Tennyson really means is something like "dives."

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