Tennyson’s ‘The Eagle’ : The Best Short Poem in the English language

This classic 6-line poem is for many connoisseurs of fine verse an unparalleled gem of beauty. A miniature painting in memorable words, it is possibly the best short poem in the English language.


—  §  —

LD :  This brief extract from the final chapter of Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883) is in no way connected with the above poem by Tennyson (1851). I just happen to have reread both pieces this morning by sheer coincidence, in rapid succession, and thought it might serve some “deeper purpose” to put them here in juxtaposition. The archaic language used in the translation is deliberate, for Nietzsche himself had written the original Also Sprach Zarathustra in an archaic German possibly influenced by Luther’s great (1534) German Bible.

My Eagle

by Friedrich Nietzsche

In the morning after that night, Zarathustra leaped from his couch, girded his loins, and went out from his cave, glowing and strong, as the sun at dawn coming forth from dark mountains.

Thou great star! said he, even as he had said aforetime. Thou deep eye of joy, where were all thy bliss without them for whom thou shinest!

Go to! They sleep yet, these Higher Men, whilst I awake: these are not my true companions! Not for these do I wait here in my mountains.

They sleep yet within my cave; their dream drinketh yet of my drunken songs. The ear that hearkeneth for me, the obeying ear, it is not found in them.

Thus Zarathustra spoke within his heart when the sun rose. Then gazed he questing into the heavens, for he heard above him the sharp cry of his Eagle.


Well! cried he. My beasts awake, for I awake.

My Eagle awaketh and, as I do, honoureth the sun. With Eagle’s talons he graspeth at the new light. You are my true beasts; you I love.

But I lack yet my true men!

— Excerpt from Thus Spake Zarathustra, ‘The Sign’, translated by A. Tille, 1896


22 thoughts to “Tennyson’s ‘The Eagle’ : The Best Short Poem in the English language”

  1. I really like your choice of photos, especially the one with purple mountain grandeur to represent these fine literary words of art.

  2. The true men are here…awakened….waiting….watching
    Grasping the light….knowing time’s right
    to deliver its might…poised…like eagles


      1. They are of the same family, but of different sub-families.

        Many well-known birds, such as hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures are included in this group.

        I’ve watched them circle over mountain ridges and farm fields. Hawks have a beauty of their own.

      2. Hawks ain’t eagles, eh?

        You know not what you speak, Madame

        For me, that women are equals in the functioning of a truly free society is a given IRRESPECTIVE of Nietzsche’s misogyny

        Have you read an accounting of life in Iroquois communities insofar as the exalted status of grandmothers are concerned?

        Check it out like I suggested to you awhile ago and get back to me

  3. I object to overt sexism of HE this and HE that in tHIS poem

    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.

    how did HE (tennyson) know that it wasn’t a SHE or a transgendered eagle, a transvestite eagle that was previously a chicken or a duck but went for genera-changing surgery in Thailand?
    Lots of ducks in Thailand, and very tasty too.
    I have no idea how to distinguish a HEagle from a SHEagle,
    hey look mom, it’s a heagle! No son, it is a sheagle, such a gay bird, look, like a thunderbolt she fell and scooped up a bunch of nosegays from the field, oh how lovely, look how she clasps her gnarled hands in admiration!
    I move that we delete this offensive, politically incorrect poem as well as the poet from the curriculum, to be replaced by my favorite poem, Kumbaya sung by castrato choir in Esperanto, so angelically diversified.

  4. @ Lobro

    I agree. This sexist poem is a failure because of its lack of inclusiveness. The use of the hateful personal pronoun “HE” is chauvinist and patriarchal, if not downright misogynistic in its blatant attempt to marginalize and exclude the female from the field of discourse.

    Tennyson deserves fifty lashes.

    1. The extract from Nietzsche is equally abhorrent. The last line, for example, is “But I lack yet my true men!” Note how this crazy misogynistic philosopher leaves WOMAN out of the picture!

      Elsewhere in the extract he speaks of the “the Higher Man”, the Ubermensch. No mention of “the Higher Woman”, I note with disgust.

      We women are all cast as lower creatures. Baser than base. If this isn’t “hate speech”, what is?

      1. Madame Butterfly :



      2. MB –

        Christians are that way also…

        They say, “Heavenly Father.” Never “Heavenly Mother.” 🙂

        And never “Lady.” Always “Lord.”

    2. Mme, let’s fix these egregious oversights:
      in my version, it will be “But I lack yet my true women!
      and when i am martyred heroically in defense of the much better (ahem) gender, Allah will grant me at least fifty Lashas if not the full complement of 72.

      No offense, Lasha but how could I sidestep the opportunity? 😀

  5. ‘He’, ‘She’, ‘It’ – who gives a fuck??! ‘He’ fits well in the King’s English!
    The poem IS beautiful. Lasha chooses good stuff!

  6. The eagle falls like a thunderbolt upon the enemies of peace

    In a nutshell, the reconciliation of man’s contentious behavior has sublimated to an authoritativeness which determines what your RIGHTS are and calls it “law” – all adopted within reactionary frameworks called “governments”. This reactive impulse is what makes it BOGUS.

    Centuries ago, the ancient Iroquois were caught up in a long, destructive cycle of killing and retribution. Eventually, an avatar born into a Huron community named Deganawidah appeared on the scene with a plan to pacify his inherited people’s dysfunctional “human nature” – a condition which stems literally from the reptilian brain*

    At the dawn of time, the master of Life prompted the creation of Beings who lived in love and harmony. On Earth, this state of GRACE became disrupted with the arrival of a belligerent race of Beings whose DNA humans now largely share due to the genetic intermingling of humans and reptilians. The resultant state of DIS-GRACE cued the eventual arrival of…

    the story picks up here with passages from “Through Indian Eyes”

    ‘… Deganawidah, who set out across Lake Ontario in a stone canoe. Landing on the southern shore, he came upon Hiawatha, a clan leader of Mohawk descent who had lost all his daughters to tribal strife. Deganawidah offered words of condolence that lifted Hiawatha’s grief and dried his tears; the same consoling words would later be repeated at Iroquois council meetings to promote good feelings and open minds. Then the prophet described a great Tree of Peace under whose branches the tribes would meet to resolve their differences. He enunciated principles of justice and equality; bloodshed would yield to a new sense of brotherhood among the people.

    Deganawidah was a man of powerful vision; Hiawatha possessed the gifts of oratory and persuasion. Together the two men traveled the length and breadth of Iroquois country, forging alliances, teaching the great law of justice; and spreading the gospel of the Tree of Peace.

    The five nations that entered the league retained full control over their own affairs. But matters of mutual importance – peace, and wars of self-defense against nations outside the league for example – were debated by a grand council, which met periodically on a hilltop at Onondaga. The first meeting took place, according to tribal lore, under a giant evergreen tree where an eagle perched, it’s fierce eyes scanning the horizon for signs of approaching trouble. Fifty chiefs attended, selected from each tribe by its leading older women, the clan mothers with whom rested ultimate power. Each tribe had one vote, and decisions were always unanimous, reached by consensus usually after lengthy discussion. No one was obliged to accept a conclusion he did not agree with.”

    “A council fire for all the nations shall be kindled. It shall be lighted for the Cherokee and for the Wyandot. We will kindle it all for the seven nations living toward the sunrise, and for the nations that dwell toward the sunset. All shall receive the Great Law and labor together for the welfare of man.” Deganawidah

    *As readers on these threads know, it has long been my contention that this was not the doing of the creating power that makes our singular existence possible. The TRUE nature of human beings was ‘hijacked’. Holy men like Deganawidah, Jesus, etc. are Light messengers whose initial presence and INTENT here was to mitigate the effects caused by a propensity to create discord, deriving from this cerebral flaw. I believe this flaw was the FIRST cause that has led to the present state of the World being on the brink of a full totalitarianism. This parallels EXACTLY to the parasite running out its course.

    The putrid ship is going down, and jousting at worldly windmills is essentially fruitless in the sense of what will COMPLETELY reverse-engineer the dire predicament we find ourselves in, acts of standing up for righteousness notwithstanding – but only if these stances are taken knowing full-well of the looming storm that will sink the worldly ship.

    “Life on this planet now finds itself in a watershed moment. The drums are sounding for those who remember the sacred bond to renew its trust, and relieve the bearing of its condemning cross. This will mark the end of the unresolved discord of our prohibitive dissonance, and a return to unity in realms of unbroken harmony.” Brownhawk

    from the Lakota language:

    wa’ tu kuato-si (the Sacred Dance will soon begin)
    lalu-lalu cooma-si-ka (come gather around all my loving children)

    Alo Kalo (White Buffalo Calf Woman has spoken)

  7. Brownhawk:
    Please read A HISTORY OF THE JESUITS IN NORTH AMERICA IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY by Francis Parkman and you’ll see what scum the Iroquois really were, hated by all other tribes and by whites, for good reason. They tortured their captives for days, horribly; the women were more sadistic than the men. They tortured one Jesuit priest for a good 18 hours before he died, with red-hot axe-heads hung around his neck, and so on. They were also cannibals. They were divided up into 5 tribes. In the end, one of the 5 obtained firearms from Dutch traders (who else?) and exterminated all the other, related, Iroquois tribes; the survivors had to run away south into a few of the American states and are known today as the Wyandots.

    Since their losses in warfare against other tribes could only be made up by kidnapping and adopting captives, including white women, any Iroquois-group survivors today are, according to the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, “more white than Indian”, or “Indians in name only.”

    I’m sick of hearing all this bullshit about the “noble savages”, thanks to forgeries written by whites (the “Speech” of “Chief Seattle”, the “Indian Ten Commandments” and all the rest of it).

    Also, do me a favour and read NUMBERS FROM NOWHERE, by David Henige, which debunks millions of lies on nearly all topics, especially the so-called American Indians, and shows that the Indians never lived in “harmony” with nature at all, but exterminated all wildlife on an industrial scale centuries before the arrival of the white man. This is not hard to prove.

    See also THE GREAT FATHER by Francis Paul Prucha. Get the full version, with references, not the abridged version.

    1. If that’s all the stuff you’re going to access, Carlos, then OF COURSE you’re gonna have the take you have!

      Do you believe everything you read, or do I? Certainly not!

      For you to make the blanket statement, “… the Indians never lived in harmony with nature at all, but exterminated all wildlife on an industrial scale centuries before the arrival of the white man..” is short-sighted, callous, and ignorant in conveniently suiting your lame argument in indicting all Indians!

      OF COURSE many were as you say, as have been ALL HUMAN BEINGS in the deplorable reality of our existence as such.

      When I speak of men like Deganawidah I’m talking about a Christ-like figure, who like I said, were here to set human beings, white, red, brown, yellow or otherwise on the path of righteous behavior. His particular aegis was for the Red man. What evil acts Indians perpetrated on others, as did whites, browns, yellows, etc. on is the same damnable thing!!

      My advice to you Carlos, as it is for everybody, is to adopt a more holistic perspective on the ENTIRE history of what man has done, and is doing to his fellow man, and don’t indict all Indians as you wouldn’t indict all of any other race of HUMAN beings.

      1. “…any other race of HUMAN beings..””

        To elaborate, say, “…all the races whose PRIMARY genetic make-up is human (i.e.; “goy”) Excluded from this are the strict in-breeding reptilian/human hybrids – the “egregious ones” (standing out from the herd)

  8. Just to change the subject in getting a little philosophical, here’s something I wrote last night after reading some of the more well-known quotes on “death”:

    On Consciousness

    Being born is yet to die
    in between a nascent lie
    Never born is ever be
    being yet forever me

      1. yes, hp, and pondering on the second line, “in between a nascent lie” could fill VOLUMES :>}

Comments are closed.