This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.
Today I offer you just one poem, because it’s the most perfect poem ever written in the English language and there’s no way any other poem can be placed alongside the The Eagle, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Six lines and thirty-nine words were never so full of powerful language and literary history.
He clasps the crag with crooked 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.
The Eagle is a perfect poem. It’s a Riddle, a kenning, and it contains the dramatic use of assonance and alliteration, which is so representative of Old English / Anglo-Saxon poetry. It is composed of two, three line rhyming stanzas with eight syllables per line.
The repetition of the plosive ‘d’ and ‘k’ sound gives the flash poem force and unity. Curiously, few of the words in my poem have Latin origin. The acoustic power of Old English strikes through. The effect is sharp and forceful, the rhythm makes us almost see the eagle, who finally falls at our feet.
Tennyson’s poems taught me the power of words. Tennyson recovered awareness of the strength of Old English, which had been softened by the influence of Latin, (mainly through the imposition of French after the Norman invasion of 1066), and reminded us of the power of the essence of the English language and its roots in Old English, where alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds), and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds), kennings (Old English type of metaphor), imagery, and symbolism were frequently used as literary devices to shock our brains into understanding intangible, ethereal feelings.
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