Explication Of Ulysses
In this poem, Tennyson reworks the figure of Ulysses by drawing on the ancient hero of Homer's Odyssey. Homer's Ulysses learns from a prophecy that he will take a final sea voyage after killing the suitors of his wife Penelope. Ulysses finds himself restless in Ithaca and driven by "the longing I had to gain experience of the world". Ulysses says that there is little point in his staying home "by this still hearth" with his old wife, handing out rewards and punishments for all of his subjects who live in his kingdom. Still speaking to himself he proclaims that he "cannot rest from travel" but feels required to live to the fullest and swallow every last drop of life. He has enjoyed all his experiences as a sailor who travels the seas, and he considers himself a model for everyone who wanders and roams the earth. His travels have exposed him to many different types of people and ways of living. They have also exposed him to the "delight of battle" while fighting the Trojan War with his men. Ulysses declares that his travels and encounters have shaped who he is: "I am a part of all that I have met," he says. And it is only when he is traveling that the "margin" of the world that he has not yet traveled shrink and fade, and stop to push him. Ulysses declares that it is boring to stay in one place, and that to remain at a standstill is to waste rather than to flourish; to stay in one place is to pretend that all there is to life is the simple act of breathing, whereas he knows that in fact life contains much freshness, and he longs to encounter this. His spirit yearns constantly for new experiences that will broaden his life; he wishes "to follow knowledge like a sinking star" and forever grow in knowledge and in learning. Ulysses now speaks to an unidentified audience concerning his son, Telemachus, who will act as his successor while the great hero goes on with his travels: he says, "This is my son, mine own Telemachus, to whom I...
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Tennyson. The Poems of Tennyson. 3 vols. Edited by Christopher Ricks. Second Edition. Berkley: U of California P, 1987
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