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Anaylsis of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s – The Eagle

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 841
  • Category: Poetry

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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 they “fall off.” Both are encircled by their “worlds” and must stand or endure. The thunderbolt characterizes death in that both are sudden, effective, and momentary. A thunderbolt is loud and it disappears just as quickly as it appears. Even though a man’s life span appears long to him, in the scheme of things it is a relatively small amount of time. The water below the cliff conceptualizes man’s eminent demise as the eagle presumably falls in. In addition, the last words of each stanza, “stands” and “falls,” are opposite to each other in definition. “Falls” is often used to convey death, while “stands” is used to convey endurance. Thus, falls and the suddenness of the thunderbolt, together convey the death of man.

Tennyson believed that the highest purpose of a poet, of any writer, was to make readers aware of the connections between earth and heaven, body and soul, material and ideal. In this poem he demonstrates by using imagery that man has a lofty perception of himself but in reality he is lonely and irrelevant. Within the scheme of the universe he is merely an unimportant fleeting soul.

rost’s poetry is based mainly upon the life and scenery of rural New England, and the language of his verse reflects the compact idiom of that region. Although he concentrates on ordinary subject matter, his emotional range is wide and deep, and he is capable of shifting in the same poem from a tone of humorous banter to the passionate expression of tragic experience. The underlying philosophy of Frost’s poetry is rooted in traditional New England individualism, and his work shows his strong sympathy for the values of early American society.

“Frost, Robert Lee,” Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1993 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1993 Funk & Wagnall’s emantics

Finally, in human language, the speaker necessarily attaches meaning to the structured sound sequences, and the meaning is perceived and understood by other humans who share the same language. The process of communicating meanings with sounds, words, and sentences and perceiving meanings that others communicate in this way is believed to involve grammar as a tool for relating thoughts or ideas to speech, or signaling. Every meaningful sentence or utterance has a surface and an underlying structure. At the surface are the words and sentence elements as spoken and interpreted. At the underlying or deep level are the words and sentence elements as they are grammatically structured. This level of deep structure is where sentence structure appears ambiguous.

Two different surface structures can be perceived to mean one thing, and one surface structure of a sentence may have two meanings. The surface sentence “Flying planes can be dangerous” means both that it can be dangerous for someone to fly planes and that planes that are flying can be dangerous. The different interpretations of this sentence have to do with its common surface structure having two distinct deep structures. On the other hand, “To please John is easy” and “It is easy to please John,” despite different surface structures, are the same sentence at the level of deep structure. Human communication is a unique process combining special speech organs, grammatical structure, and intended and understood meanings.

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