Alfred Lord Tennyson
The poem was first published in 1842. The poem is an embodiment of the modern passion for knowledge, for the exploration of its limitless field for annexation of new kingdom of science and religion. Tennyson makes Ulysses a symbol for expounding a strenuous philosophy of life.
Representative Poet of Victorian Age
Alfred Lord Tennyson is a poet of important place in Victorian Age (1832-1901). He combines in his poetry the classical trend and romantic element, which brings a touch of class in his verses. In the beginning, he didn’t win laurels, but with the passage of time, gradually, his reputation mounted. He succeeded Wordsworth as “Poet Laureate” and became the mouthpiece of his age.
Struggle is a Sign of Life
The poet expresses his liking for the vibrant sort of life. He believes that one should keep himself in constant struggle in order to prove his mettle. It is below the dignity of a man to lead a dormant and lethargic life. Tennyson has composed an inspirational and optimistic poetic account to praise the life of action. To the poet, one must undertake adventurous tasks to prove his mark. He denounces lethargic and sluggish kind of life and adds that it extinguishes the fire of love for adventure and struggle.
Dormancy Leads to the Doom
Tennyson describes his viewpoint by telling the story of Ulysses (also known as Odysseus), the hero of Homer’s epic poem The Odysey. After playing a major role in the Greeks’ victory over the Trojans, Ulysses endured many hardships and trials of his courage and strength in the perilous journey back to Ithaca, his kingdom. There he was reunited with his faithful wife, Penelop, and their son, Telemachus. In this monologue, the epic hero, now in old age, thinks about what life still has to offer him. He finds life at home boring and uninteresting even in luxurious surroundings. He decides to give up his kingdom to proceed on a journey of exploration and discovery. Before he embarks on his adventure, he persuades his old companions to join him in this expedition. He praises them as the men of action but at the same time, he reminds them that they are no longer young. Further, he adds that old age would not be a handicap to the achievement of more glory.
About the Mariners
Tennyson has departed from the Odyssey in the account of the mariners of Ulysses. In Homer’s poem they all perish at sea, and only Ulysses returns to Ithaca. But Tennyson has it otherwise and makes them follow their leader on another voyage.
Prestige of Old Age
Ulysses says that it is not the strength but the determination, which decides the destiny. He says that the end of life is death and not the old age. It is wrong to think that being old we are good for nothing. He prepares them to be up and strike against the rival forces.
The Highest Achievement
Joining the expedition, they are not ordinary persons, but they will become the heroes of a battle. It is therefore, appropriate for them to resume a life of action. He tells them the dangers that lie ahead, but there is consolation too. It may be that he may be swallowed up in the sea or reach Elysium and meet face to face the great Achilles. If constant struggle is followed by death, it will add to their honour and glory.
Man can be Destroyed but not be Defeated
As a final argument, he tells them that they have learnt many things from life and there is so much to be learnt. They decided that they would never be hindrance by old age in their search for more glory and experience. They shall go on and never accept defeat.