Poetry Appreciation – 1 | How to read an unseen poem / Exam unseen section/ The Eagle/ poem analysis


Hi everyone, this is Usha Pandit, your Mindsprings English teacher. Today, I have got you something new. We’re going to
do Poetry. Poetry is like a piece of art A lot of people try to paraphrase poems. So, what they do they do? They try to
understand. What is the meaning of the poem? And they try to make it into
sentences and therefore they destroy the beauty of the poem. So poetry is –
supposed to be done in a very different way and I’m going to show you how to do it.
I am going to show you how to read poetry, and how to analyze it and how to
appreciate it, ok? So today I have chosen a very simple poem for you.
it has six lines and 39 words. Just 39 words. It’s a famous one I’m sure you’ve done
this in school. The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It’s one of those very many
classic poems that lots and lots of us do in school. so I’ve chosen that one
and it’s just 39 words and 6 lines, and see what the poet has packed into it.
So, because poets use 39 words, or a hundred words, they’re not writing a novel see?
So those 39 words, or hundred words or you know the economy of words
as we say, that is, they are very very miserly with the number of words
that we they use. And therefore, each word we need to weigh properly. We need to
look at each one carefully, and say what is the weight of meaning that is there in
each word that the poet uses. This is very important. If you don’t do that, you
miss out on the beauty of the poem. So let’s read it first. The Eagle by
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. Very simple small poem. So how do we do this? If
you look at it, one of the first things you should be doing is, looking at the title
of the poem. So the title tells me It’s about an eagle right? And then the title tells you it’s
about an eagle. One of the things to do is to think about what do I know about the eagle? Any poem that you pick up, ask yourself what do I know about this? So, if it’s
called the Daffodils, what do I know about Daffodils?
If it’s called The dog? What do I do about the dog? so you if it’s called
The museum or The moon or Grandmother’s story, whatever the title, ask yourself
what are my first impressions? and what do you get for the eagle? Plain speak. Plainspeak meaning nothing heavy, nothing symbolic,
big meaning nothing there is nothing the first things that come to
my mind. I think he’s the king of birds, everybody understands that. Sharp eyes
isn’t it? Very sharp eyes. What’s the eagle famous for? Very very sharp
eyes. He sees better than we do. talons – strong. The muscles of the of the
legs, very strong. I believe they can even can give a small sheep, and fly
away. That’s how sharp it is. And then you have strength and speed. Speed is another
thing. So the eagle flies right on top,
and then it’s got such sharp eyesight that it can look down, and then swoop
down and pick up a fish and go away. It’s that quick and that
sharp. So that’s my plain speak. I might also think about what’s its
diet? then what is its habitat? where does it live? so I will get a lot of
information about the title by just using my own understanding, common sense,
and previous knowledge, Now, I read this poem. Is it about an eagle? Yes. So I can
see their mountain, so I know yes, it’s about, you know, that’s part of what I
knew already. and the sea beneath him crawls, so yes, he’s flying
over the sea, and then he watches from his mountain walls, and then he like a thunderbolt he falls. So it’s making some sense to me, but I’m saying what’s all
this fuss about? Okay, so he’s flying over the sea and then he falls like a thunderbolt. Why is he falling? Now, if I knew about his diet, I would say maybe he saw
a fish and he’s falling very quickly to catch the fish. This might be. But I am
still wondering what’s all this fuss about with this poem. So let’s look at
the symbolisms. Bow what happens with poets is that they try to pack a lot of
wonderful meaning into these few words that they use. So a lot of meanings are
symbolic. so let’s look at the symbolic meanings.
So symbolically, all of this would translate to mighty. King means regal.
Isn’t it there’s a particular attitude about the eagle?
He’s observant. He’s a loner. He’s sitting right on that mountain top so far away
from everybody else. So there’s a loneliness attached to him. He’s awe
inspiring. The eagle is something. An eagle came and sat somewhere in your yard and every one would kind of go and look at it and say Wow what a bird! The way it’s
beak is and the way its whole face is, then the whole demeanor of the
eagle is extremely royal, right? And then you have there you have symbolic
connotation with countries or cultures. So the Bald eagle is the national symbol
of the USA. And garuda is our own symbol of the mythological bird. Garuda is also the national airline of, I think of Indonesia, so there are lots of
cultures that venerate the eagle therefore, eagle is very
sacred for a lot of people. So, we have all these impressions of this eagle when
we are looking at this poem and we need to kind of activate all these
impressions in our mind when we read the poem on the eagle. It will help. Now the
other thing I have to talk to you about is in all poems, there are what we call
word clusters. Word clusters are words that stick together, okay? So when the
poet is point is using 39 words, if he has repeated four words in that, over and over again, the same word, it means it’s very
important isn’t it? So therefore you need to start looking at word clusters.
What are the clusters that we find in this poem? so you look at the verbs.
There seems to be a lot of verbs in this poem. He ‘clasps’ the crag with
cooked hands, the sea beneath him crawls so there is ‘crawls’ and then there is ‘watches’ and
then there is ‘falls’ and then there is ‘stands’. A whole bunch of action words or verbs. Now if you look at all the verbs what is the one verb that does not seem
to fit the eagle? Clasps? strong. Stands? strong. crawls? doesn’t sound very good
worms crawl, and all sorts of creatures crawl watches? good one. falls? good, decisive action. So this one, ‘crawls’, seems to be out of place. And what is calling there? the
sea. The eagle is not crawling, the sea is crawling. so there is one contrast there in
those verbs with crawls ok? You have a nature cluster. When you read it, the first thing that strikes you is that there are a lot of nature words. What are the nature words? you have ‘sun’, isn’t it? you’ve got ‘lands’. Then what do you have? The ‘azure world’. Azure is blue and therefore sky. What else do you have have?
you’ve got the ‘sea’. There you got the ‘mountain’ see? And then you’ve got the ‘thunderbolt’.
Can you see all those words? and they stand for different spaces. So you’ve got the land, you’ve got the sea, you’ve got the mountain, you’ve got the rain and the thunder
and the fire of the thunderbolt, and then you’ve got the sun. Again fire. So you’ve
got this earth, water, fire, sky, your main elements have come into this. So
therefore, there is, what we call, cosmic imagery. why cosmic? because it’s about
the cosmos. It’s is not ordinary imagery. It’s not leaves, and plants, and
fruits. It’s sun, and lands, and sky, and sea, and mountains, and thunderbolt. The fire of the thunderbolt. It’s got everything. And does it match the regality
of the eagle? When we are talking about they eagle, and we call the eagle regal,
mighty, and awe inspiring, again, this whole cosmic imagery seems to add to the eagle, doesn’t it? And because he’s used those words, it attaches itself to the
Eagle’s personality, and makes the eagle bigger and mightier than he would be
be if he were seen as just a bird. So it’s not just a bird, it’s a symbolic bird of
might. So that’s what word clusters will do for you. It will allow you to
look at abstractions. It will allow you to look at the symbolic meanings of very
ordinary things. So we’ve got cosmic imagery there. And then look at
these emotions. One emotion that stands out is the loneliness because it’s
written there ‘in lonely lands’. The loneliness is one emotion of the eagle that
you find in this poem. Then what else do you have? Then you have this word ‘ringed’. Ringed.
Ringed with the azure world he stands. So where the eagle is standing, you can almost put a ring round that. Ringed with that world and the eagle in the
middle. So what is it? It’s like framing the eagle, isn’t it? It’s a
snapshot of this mighty eagle ringed with the sky like that around it.
so again the might and the awe inspiring nature of the eagle is re emphasized. So you’ve got ringed and then you’ve got this word ‘beneath’. See this word ‘beneath’. The wrinkled sea… look
at word ‘wrinkled’. what does wrinkled show? What is normally associated with
the word ‘wrinkled’? Age. isn’t it? Age, wear and tear, something that’s not very attractive.. all
these things. So when you look at poems, study the words properly, and ask
yourself What does it mean? What does it … these words…. want do they connote? Connote meaning, what are the emotions, ideas, meanings attached to that word. The world ‘wrinkled’
shows me age, wear and tear, unattractive probably ready to die. that sort of very
unattractive imagery. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls. Beneath. Again, does it emphasize the kingship of the eagle? because it is the sea. What is crawling beneath him? They are not worms, the sea, the ocean, is crawling beneath him.
Look at the might of the bird. So over and over again you have this emphasis
on the eagle’s kingship simply by the kind of words that the poet has used. We can
‘crawls’ and ‘ringed’ and ‘beneath’ we’ve looked at that. And then ‘watches’ so observant. Now through the entire poem do you see movement, huge amounts of movement or do you see stillness? That’s
what you’ve to ask yourself. I’m going to read it again. He clasps the crag with
crooked hands. ‘crooked’ watch that also. Crooked hands. Close
to the sun in lonely lands – up there! Ringed with the azure world he stands. Is there
movement? No. It just seems to be standing there. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls. He watches from his mountain walls. Still there is absolutely no movement and then
in the last line…. And like the Thunderbolt he falls!’ So what has happened now? That sudden speed.There is a suddenness. Unanticipated, sudden movement that shows a huge amount of speed. So what has the poet done? very short poem….. he’s kept it
still, and that last line he has created that speed for you by sheer contrast. That’s
what he has done. It’s absolutely brilliant. Now let’s look at the devices.
So you immediately find that there is a personification. How do we know ?Addressed as ‘he’, ‘he’ ‘him’. His mountain walls. Look at the ownership. He owns the mountain. The sea is beneath him. that’s the that’s the might of the
eagle. so you got this ‘he’ repeated over and over again. Strong personification. Strong
ownership of cosmic spaces. That’s what this you find there. So you
have an alliteration. ‘Clasp the crag with crooked’ The cr cr cra sound. Is it rough or smooth?
Therefore, the eagle is in a habitat that is very very rough. So then you have
‘lonely lands’ again an alliteration. you will find a few alliterations here and there – very musical and yet, very powerful. You have repetitions, and you
have the last one there. It’s a simile. And like a Thunderbolt, likening the eagle to a thunderbolt. What does the Thunderbolt stand for? Fire, rain, electricity, might of
nature, very strong might of nature that almost destroys trees, houses, sometimes
entire villages, depending upon how it strikes. So the power of the way in which
the Eagle drops down to the earth. after sitting and is watching for so long. So
this is your poem. If you appreciate it like this, now suddenly this poem has become
amazing hasn’t it? Otherwise, when you are reading it you are saying okay what’s a big deal? it’s about some Eagle sitting somewhere and then he falls down to take
some fish. But because the poet created cosmic imagery, because he used a whole bunch of devices, you suddenly find that the might of the eagle is very strong in your mind.
In future, when you quote this poem, will quote it with pride, you will quote it with ownership, you’ll quote it with a sense of affection and say what a poem that
was! The Eagle. When you come the mood, the mood is always sitting inside the poem. Mood is
not what you feel, mood is what the poet has created. So
what sort of words has the poet used? Strong. Powerful. Mighty. Hasn’t
been used that sort of words? And therefore, the mood is one of energy. The mood
is one of tremendous energy, very positive and celebratory of this amazing bird – the eagle. So I hope
you enjoyed that. Thank you very much for listening. In the description box make
sure you go to our website and an entire section on poetry in Writing with Ease.
Do buy the book. Subscribe to our channel. So until we meet again,
keep reading poetry, and enjoy yourself.

6 thoughts on “Poetry Appreciation – 1 | How to read an unseen poem / Exam unseen section/ The Eagle/ poem analysis

  1. Thanks a lot mam. I just got your book writing with ease from Amazon, your explanations are brilliant

  2. I wish I had a english teacher like you in school .. Amazing !

  3. I enjoyed the lesson very much ma'am. I already have the book Writing with ease. Its very helpful. Request you to do a video on teaching poetry through activity and through interactive way.

  4. Love this! Could you also show us a longer poem, and how to do poetry appreciation with it?

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