What is the theme of "The Eagle" by Alfred Tennyson?


Quick Answer

The theme of "The Eagle" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson is the loneliness and majesty of human existence. Through association, Tennyson makes it clear that he is using the eagle as a personification of a human, and using a number of symbols he gives an impression of what being human means.

Continue Reading

Full Answer

The main word choice that clarifies that Tennyson is symbolizing humanity is the use of "hands" instead of "claws." Tennyson also writes that the eagle "stands" instead of "perches," which is another indication of a human condition. The alliteration with the words "clasps," "crags" and "crooked" suggests maturity. The words "wrinkled" and "crawls" to describe the sea far below hints at Earth-bound mortality. The overall image suggests a lonely, aging person who longs for flight, which symbolizes immortality, but is bound, or "ring'd" by the limits of his humanity. In the end, instead of lifting his wings and soaring, he falls, which may symbolize his death. Instead of "close to the sun" suggesting nearness to God, Tennyson may have had in mind the Greek myth of Icarus, who, with wings of wax, flew higher and higher until the wax melted, and he fell.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during the reign of Queen Victoria, was a poet known for his vivid imagery and melodic verbal interplay. He was, however, prone to be melancholy, though the precision of his poetic harmony also offered reassurance and serenity. Inspiration for "The Eagle" came to him during a trip to the Pyrenees Mountains on the Spanish-French border during the summer of 1830.

Learn more about Poetry

Related Questions