Analysis of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses"

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The poem “Ulysses” is written in exactly seventy lines and in these seventy lines the poet uses synecdoche, personification, meter, and metaphors. All of these are used in hope of making the last line climatic. The last line is a quotable ending phrase “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”(4, 70) The indecisiveness of the speaker when struggling to decide whether to stay or leave Ithaca to voyage to the “untraveled world” (2, 20) summarizes the poem. Throughout the poem it is obvious which stance Odysseus’ heart heavily sways towards but it is not till the last line is his decision made clear.

Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” is written in iambic pentameter but makes use of trochees and spondees. As a result, the poem reads not like a poem but a speech from Odysseus. Odysseus then delivers his speech as a dramatic monologue addressing those in his court with insult. Odysseus distains his people simply because they live only to satisfy their primary needs. Odysseus is debasing his people naming them as a savage race: “That hoard, and sleep, and feed”. He contrasts this imagery with a metaphor of himself as a lion: “roaming with a hungry heart”. Although, this dehumanizes Odysseus comparing himself to a lion he tries: “to strive, to seek, to find” (4,70); therefore, he is better than the savage race he is king to. It leads to the idea that whatever Odysseus argues as the right decision is right because everyone in his presence is less than he is. He acknowledges his superiority first as king in the opening line of the poem and then in intelligence in the twelfth line.

The poem is a speech and is meant to be read out loud and the crowd is to visualize themselves as the citizens of Ithaca being addressed by Odysseus. With that...

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... 57) a synecdoche for all the new things they will encounter. Odysseus names all the negative things that evoke fear before stating simply why they are leaving in a perfect iambic pentameter: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” (4, 70).

The last line is poignant to the meaning of the rest of the poem. The poet structures an argument as to why Odysseus should leave Ithaca. The audience determines whether the grounds are founded and decides on whether the decision was just. By using personification, synecdoche, metaphors and meter Tennyson tries to sway his audience to agree with Odysseus. To agree with Odysseus’ decision leads to the idea that Odysseus can inspire society to be equally as active. The last line therefore summarizes not only the poem but Tennyson’s message to society one must try: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” (4, 70).

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