Ulysses

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Ulysses A. Tennyson
Summary
Ulysses declares that there is little point in his staying home (Ulysses declares that it is boring to stay in one place). His spirit yearns constantly for new experiences that will broaden his horizons. Ulysses now speaks to an unidentified audience concerning his son Telemachus, who will act as his successor while the great hero resumes his travels. His son’s capabilities as a ruler, praising his prudence, dedication, and devotion to the gods. Telemachus will do his work of governing the island while Ulysses will do his work of traveling the seas. In the final stanza, Ulysses addresses the mariners with whom he has worked. He declares that although he and they are old. He encourages them to make use of their old age because “ ’tis not too late to seek a newer world.” He declares that his goal is to sail onward “beyond the sunset” until his death. Perhaps, he suggests, they may even reach the “Happy Isles,” or the paradise of perpetual summer described in Greek mythology. The sources

The main sources of the monologue are Homer's Odyssey (XI, 100-137) and Dante's Inferno (XXVI, 90-142). In the former, Odysseus is told by Tiresias (the blind fortune-teller) that, when he has dealt with the suitors at Ithaca. Dante puts Ulysses in Hell for the sin of fraud (because of his deceit with the Trojan horse), and from there he relates the story of his death at sea on the last voyage, undertaken because his passion for exploration overcame his attachment to his family. Tennyson sides with Homer, who thinks Odysseus admirable, rather than with Dante, who thinks him wicked; but he takes from Dante the concept of forever seeking new experience.The 19th-century faith in science and progress had, in fact, cancelled the medieval fear of going beyond human limits and had underlined the right and duty to exploit ali the potentialities of human iritelligence. Thus, Tennyson's Ulysses becomes the expression of the Victorian man of action. Lines 1-32...
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