I will be looking at the visual imagery in these two poems I have studied, one from “The Eagle (A Fragment)” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and the other is the poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats. The poem “The Eagle (A Fragment)” is a short poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The fact that it is called a fragment leads the reader to thinking whether the poem is complete or not. The poem has a strong musical rhythm, and the poem tells us about how an eagle has high authority and strength as it flies high over other birds. In the next few lines we come to know that the bird is lonely and in the end the eagle falls.Order now
The last line has left the reader unclear as to why the eagle has fallen. Whether the eagle has died or that it is diving to grab a prey it is unclear. In this poem the literal meaning talk about the life of an eagle, but figuratively it talks about what happens to a human being when going through the same cycle as shown in the poem about the eagle. Even though Alfred has written a Short poem he still manages to use many different Language techniques. He mainly concentrates on imagery of all different types throughout the poem. He also uses language techniques such as synaesthesia this is where visual and tactile metaphors overlap.
E.g. in this poem we can see this from “wrinkled sea” invokes both the sense of sight and the sense of touch. Now looking deeper into this line “The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls”, we can see that there is evidence of personification being used. Personification is when an inanimate object is given human-like qualities. In the example above we see that the sea is made to seem like it is crawling. There are also various metaphors used such as “Ringed with the azure world” this is a more general metaphor as here the sky is being compared to a blue world that surrounds the eagle.
Just by reading the title of the poem ‘ The Eagle (A Fragment)’ the reader get the image of the majestic eagle which symbolise strength, freedom , sharp and swift all in one. And then by reading the word fragment one begins to question the poem, and start thinking if this is the whole poem or as the title says just a fragment. In the first line “He clasps the crag with crooked hands;” Here we can see there is alliterative sound technique used. And therefore we can see how the poet stresses the hard ‘C’ sound from the words clasps, crag, crooked. This grabs the reader attention as it makes the ‘C’ sound makes the poem more exciting.
I believe this gives a sense of auditory image as when reading these words images of them appear in the mind, as these words have been given more importance my adding alliterative sound technique to them. Also in the very first line we can see that there is a metaphor present in the very first line. Where it says ‘crooked hands’. This seems strange as eagles do not have hands, why couldn’t Alfred simple use feet or claws? I believe that he is trying to portray in the mind of the reader that the image of the eagle can be associated with a human being more textual proof may be given as we progress further into the poem.
Also it can be said that the eagle uses it claws to grab and carry its prey, therefore he is linking this to a human as he uses the word ‘hands’. When Alfred used the word ‘clasp’ the first image to appear in my head was a link in a chain. Now when it is used in this poem I believe it creates an image of a mountains chain linked to the eagle, and makes the eagle seem larger than life. Looking at the first stanza we see that the first description is of an eagle sitting of the side of a mountain, while digging its claws into the rock. Continuing on we come to that the eagle as we pictured the eagle of a bird of prey, and that with great strength and with great swiftness and gracefulness but now we also know that the bird is also pictured as lonely. The bird that is known for its majestic strength seems rather small against its surroundings. When it says ‘close to the sun’ we see that bird is at great height.
Moving on to the second stanza we see that in the end the eagle is compared to a thunderbolt falling from the mountain. In the beginning of the second stanza the eagle is at it great heights and this is a representation of a man at the peak of his life and possible a person that has lived his life long enough and clinging on desperately to life. I believe here that the mountain represents the universe. Therefore as said before the eagle is so small compared to its surrounding that ways if the eagle represents a human being we can also say that a man also feel so small when compared to the universe. The man is lonely so he must face the consequences of leaving the world alone.
Now here we come back the word ‘Fragment’ from the title, now looking at the poem we can say that the word fragment could represent the fact that the eagle is just a fragment of the mountain. And falling of the mountain will represent death as mountain represents universe, therefore leaving it will mean death. In the last line the thunderbolt represent death in an effective sudden and a momentary way. When a person recalls a thunderbolt the only thing that comes to mound is a loud noise and a spectacular light display which last for a few seconds. And therefore when the eagle falls it will fall into the water that could be death.
And thus the eagle falls into it on the last line. And the last word ‘falls’ must symbolise death. Now looking closer at the poem we see that the last words of the two stanzas are ‘stands’ and ‘falls’. These words are complete opposites of each other. And ‘stands’ is used to convey endurance. Therefore we can say that both falls and the thunderbolt together convey death. And also we can say that this poem is about the rise and fall of man, when it reaches the highest point in life. In the second poem “Ode On a Grecian Urn” The poet begins by addressing the urn, as a large sculpted vessels that is most unlike any real urn. Keats has made this figure of the urn from many different works of Greeks sculpture, and has gone to display it all on the pot.
When the reader begins to read the poem, the first impression of the poem would be that the tone is one of happiness. As in the third stanza he repeats the word happy five times. The language of the poem throughout is very flowery and it has the effect of lightening the deeper mood of the poem. “A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:” Here we see that Keats is talking about the tale told by the urn. He is representing it as sweet and flowery when truly it signifies a darker nature. “Forever warm and still to be enjoyed. Forever panting, and forever young:” Here we see that Keats is talking about how the urn has the ability to live forever, whereas later we come to know that he regrets this as he will not be able to live all his live.
However, he realizes that true immortality does not exist. In this poem there are many references to death and sorrow. This gives a quite dark image in the mind of the reader head. After reading this we see that the trend of the mood that is depressing just continues to get worse. We can see this through the words that the poet uses this cause visual imagery in the reader head. Like when Keats mentions “When old age shall this generation waste,” We can also see that here Keats is referring to his own mortality as well as the mortality of all his readers. In this poem the main issues discussed is about immortality and how things frozen forever such as the urn. It seems he is longing for the immortality that is possessed by the urn. He knows he can never reach towards his goal in obtaining it.
Therefore summarising this poem we can say that at first glance the images projected in this poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” presents images of happiness through its flowery language and imagery. But however, when one looks deeper into this poem, the reader discovers that the deeper and darker meaning of the poem is one of sorrow and death. And he begins to create the picture of the same inside the reader mind. The reason he wants to present this idea is because he is dying and he knows it. Therefore, Ode on a Grecian Urn is not happy as it seems in the beginning. The deep, underlying meaning is death. In which he has justified this poem by creating spectacular visual effect in the reader mind by using the effect of different types of imagery throughout the poem.