by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
He clasps the crag with crooked 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.
The poem is six lines, broken up into two three line stanzas. The rhyme scheme is AAA BBB. It is written throughout in iambic tetrameter. Tennyson uses personification (eagles do not actually have hands) and alliteration (“clasps,” “crag,” “crooked,” “close.”)
In the first stanza, the Speaker assumes we know he is speaking about an eagle. Perhaps this assumption is due to the title of the poem. Outside of the title, though, the word eagle is not used in the poem. We meet the eagle on a crag (“A steep rugged mass of rock projecting upward or outward.”) The rest of the first stanza lets us know how high up the eagle is.
In the second stanza, we learn that the crag is overlooking the water. The eagle is so high up that the waves are described as “wrinkles.” (I certainly hope nobody ever describes my wrinkles as waves.) In line five, we learn that the eagle is watching the water. The Speaker says that “mountain walls” (i.e. the cliff face) belong to the eagle. They are described as “his.” The use of he/his further the personification of the eagle that we see throughout the poem. The transition from line five to line six is important. The Speaker has been describing a high up, majestic eagle. In line six, the eagle dives into the water “like a thunderbolt.” Abruptly and powerfully, the eagle is gone. Abruptly and powerfully, the poem is ended. We know, though it is not stated, that the eagle has been hunting. The description of the eagle as a “thunderbolt” emphasizes its power.