Study Guide

The Eagle Calling Card

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Calling Card

Traditional Rhythm as an Expression of Nobility

"The Eagle" has a formal-sounding rhythm that seems to announce, with a flourish of trumpets: "This...is poetry!" The meter, weighted with the tradition of centuries of English poetry, expresses the nobility of the eagle. Tennyson rearranges sentences in order to keep a regular iambic meter or to produce an interesting effect like the stressed beats at the beginning of lines 2 and 3. The attention to sound and rhythm reminds us of two of Tennyson's most famous lines from other poems. First, in his "Charge of the Light Brigade," about a glorious military defeat, he writes, "Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die." Second, his great poem "Ulysses" ends with the line, "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Never mind what these lines mean in context – we just want you to notice how Tennyson uses traditional-sounding rhythms to glorify figures of nobility.

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