The Poets

August 13, 2009

A Commentary Delay of The Eagle

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crookèd hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

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

Of My Delay:

There was a delay on this post that has to do with a new perspective I gained pertaining to its poem, The Eagle.

First and foremost, I truly believe Tennyson experienced the perching and predatory flight of the bird his poem refers to. I also believe he thought it to be a beautiful and elating sight.

Something else in me thought that perhaps the poet was reluctant to utilize that particular experience to convey another- cautionary- meaning. But I believe he did. I’ll be back to share that perspective soon …. I just need to think it through.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Hi John, I have been pondering this poem for quite some time… well, ever since you posted it.

First, I am curious why you posted this? A delay? I am impressed (to say it lightly) by the quantity and quality of your entries, but this sounds as if you are holding yourself to some kind of schedule or quota? Not criticizing, just very curious. Or perhaps you are seeking comments that might facilitate your thought process? Not said outright, so I think not.

I agree that there is a personal connection between the poet and the image. He beautifully captures the majesty and power of the eagle, and the awe which that vision inspires. I also think the poem is intentionally short (not a fragment), a quick jab to the gut which takes ones breath. To be less sudden would dilute the strength. I do get the last line as the having possibility of something sinister or tragic, but I don’t think so. I think it only reinforces the “blow.” It reminds me of the raw, piercing strength of emotion in your previously posted “Der Panther” with its words “rushes” and “plunges” and “gone.”

I took some time to read further commentaries on this poem to try to gain a bit more insight. There were many interesting remarks, especially pertaining to technical poetic details, of which before following your blog I was unaware (not being a poetry type) and am becoming quite fascinated by! But one thing that caught my attention was from a biographical excerpt: “Tennyson suffered from extreme short-sightedness--without a monocle he could not even see to eat.” Reading the poem armed with this knowledge I see a distinct lack of detail in those objects in the distance. He stands “ring’d with the azure world” – a hazy colored cocoon; he looks upon “the wrinkled sea” – a mere blanket on the landscape. I did not see this concept addressed in any of the commentaries so it is probably my imagination. But it also makes me question his actual witnessing of this sight.

I sense, John an ongoing theme of solitude in many of the works you select. (Especially on your blog sidebar). A reflection of how you see yourself perhaps? Could this poet’s lack of corporal vision have caused him to relate in a different way to the isolation of this eagle on his high perch.

I’ve also read this piece over and over trying to discern the caution that you detect. I feel like I can force intellectually construed meaning into it, but nothing that feels “right.” Is your cautionary message found with those whom see the eagle as a bit too lofty up there so “close to the sun" and therefore destined to “fall?” One commentary described "the swift-moving labials of 'like a thunderbolt' are appropriate to the stoop of a bird of prey as well as a reminder of classic myths such as Zeus, the deliverer of thunderbolts. 'He falls' is the heroic defeat of the mythic hero, of him who flew too close to the sun, who all alone wrested fire from the gods." Hmm, perhaps.

I'll close with my favorite interpretation and one to which I wish I could lay claim -- “the eagle has the power to approach the sun but is held down by the earth."

As of April 9th, 2010