'Ulysses' is both a lament and an inspiring poem. Even modern readers who are not so familiar with the classics, can visualize the heroic legend of Ulysses, and so is not prepared for what he finds in the poem— not Ulysses the hero but Ulysses the man.
Tennyson brings out the agony felt by Ulysses at his old age, The influence of the Industrial age can be seen in Tennyson's usage of the word 'profits' in the very first line . The character calls himself 'idle' showing his disillusionment at this ripe stage of life .The "still hearth" and "the barren crags" symbolize death. He continues complaining about his hapless state and the reader begins to detect the shallowness of character of this otherwise larger than life legend. He is so self-centered and full of self pity that he shows scant respect for those close to him and those that he rules as seen in lines 4-5. His pride keeps him from calling himself old, in that many words ; He has to allude to his wife's age to let the reader in on his own advanced years.
The wisdom and grace of old age seem to elude him completely as he metaphorically claims "I will drink life to the lees."Tennyson uses vivid imagery in lines 10 - 11, the "rainy Hyades"again bringing out the fear of death in the narrator . The lines "I am become a name", and " myself not least , but honored them all" reflects the awareness Ulysses has of his legendry fame . The reader begins to identify with the character as he seems fraught with the same faults that afflict normal men . "A hungry heart' is a personification used to highlight the character's insatiable desire to travel and explore " I am part of all that I met ", portray the swelling pride of one who knows he ...
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...chable. Was he seeking the higher truth. Did he know something that the others were not aware of? "Beyond the utmost bound of human thought"(32).
He was seeking something beyond death is evident in "for my purpose holds .To sail beyond sunset."What does he mean by " seek a newer world"(57).When we see Ulysses in this light we realize that the faults we sought in him in the initial stages of the poem are failings only as perceived by a society "centered in the sphere of common duties"(39). Otherwise they were not faults but relentless endeavors of a restless soul to seek that which is beyond the realms of human thought.
List Of Sources
Cleverly , Rachael . "A Hero Among Men, A Man Among Heroes." Critical Analysis of Tennyson's Ulysses
Landow , George . "Literature, history and culture in the age of victoria"
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