Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Eagle, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with hookèd hands:
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892)

I've chosen a Tennyson poem for Tuesday Poem previously. He wrote quite a few long dramatic poems of which Ulysses was one. This little gem is rather different.

One of the things that fascinates me about it is that it doesn't sound particularly old fashioned. I have thought quite a bit about the difference between modern rhymed poems and older work and realised that many older poems include features such as the reversal of normal word order. If it's a choice between a natural sounding sentence, and getting the end words to rhyme, then in older poetry (apart from blank verse, of course), the rhymed end words seem to win out every time. You just can't get away with that in contemporary poetry. But in this one, there is not a distorted sentence to be found. The only oddity is the giving of two syllables to the word "hooked" (which strangely, I remembered as "crooked" which would quite legitimately have two syllables).

I love the imagery in this poem - especially "ringed with the azure world" - the idea of the eagle being so high up on the cliff that he is surrounded by sky. And the alliteration of the c's, l's and w's also appeals to me. I think of the letter c as the shape that the hooked claw of the eagle makes.

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3 comments:

AJ Ponder said...

An absolute fav of mine - the verse and the way it paints such a beautifully vivid picture :) cheers.

Alexia said...

I often teach this poem for the imagery and the word choice - and the beauty. Kids unfailingly love it!

Ben Hur said...

There are a number of vivid images for such a short poem. "Ringed by the azure world" is great.

I guess "hook-ed" is because of the old scanning emphasis. It occurs in a lot of Shakespeare's poetry where a normally one syllable word is made into two syllables in order to scan.

Good choice, Catherine.