Ulysses

Ulysses

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Summary of Ulysses

  • Popularity of “Ulysses”: Alfred Lord Tennyson, one of the greatest British poets, wrote Ulysses. It is a dramatic monologue. It was first published in 1842. The poem speaks about Ulysses as an ambitious man. He dissatisfied and bored with his life on the island of Ithaca. The poem also illustrates how the search for new lands and the process of exploring give him immense pleasure. Its popularity, however, lies in that it deals with the phenomenon of a life and man’s search for meanings.
  • “Ulysses” As a Representative of Hope: The poem is about the adventurous life of Ulysses. The story continues from Illiad and Odyssey, which detail Ulysses’ adventures. At the end of the long battle and journey, he reconciles with his wife, Penelope, and son Telemachus. The poem begins when the speaker says that a king earns nothing from just resting by the fire with his elderly wife and establishing new laws for his savage race. Ulysses is a restless spirit who does not want to take a break from undertaking exciting adventures. He recalls his good and bad experiences, sometimes with his dearest friends and sometimes alone battling the natural calamities. Then, he compares his life with an arch and narrates the untraveled world that attracts him through that arch. He introduces his son to the audience. He talks about his son’s positive attributes and is hopeful that his son would save his uncivilized and uncultured people. Thus, he seems to be an insatiable spirit, desperate to sail a little farther with his old friends before his death.
  • Major Themes in “Ulysses”: Exploration, the fulfillment of life, and death are the major themes of this poem. The poem reflects the innermost desire of the speaker that he wants to sail far away to explore the known universe before death. Although he gains immense popularity on account of his travel history, still he desires to explore the world. Throughout the poem, he establishes the idea that one should never give up in life and fulfill their dreams.

 Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Ulysses”

Literary devices are tools used by writers and poets to convey their emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. Alfred Tennyson has also used literary devices to enhance the poem. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /n/ in “This is my son, mine own Telemachus”.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /a/ in “The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep”.
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /f/ in “Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old”.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

“And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed”, “That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me” and “To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths”.
  2. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to an inanimate object. For example, “For always roaming with a hungry heart”. Here, the heart is personified as if it can experience hunger.
  3. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between different objects. For example, How dull it is to pause, to make an end; To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use.” Here, the poet compares himself to a dull and lifeless surface.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Ulysses”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this rhyme.

  1. Dramatic Monologue: Dramatic Monologue is a poem spoken by a single person to an audience. The audience can be one person or a group of people. “Ulysses” is a famous dramatic monologue.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of verses and lines. There are three stanzas in this poem, each having a different length.
  3. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme scheme or a metrical pattern.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are suitable as a quote in a speech while talking about ambitious people, who do not accept defeat.

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.”