I Read Therefore I Am discussion

Poem of the Day > 263. Ulysses - Alfred Lord Tennyson.

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message 1: by Lee (new)

Lee Ulysses
Alfred Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge, like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads - you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee This beautiful poem makes me feel rather more sympathetically towards Ulysses /Odysseus who struck me as very selfish in Homer's Odyssey.
The last line was inscribed on the cross raised over the final resting place of Captain Scott and the men who perished with him.

message 3: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 2082 comments I rarely read the whole poem but the final lines starting "Tis not too late to seek a newer world" is a great favourite of mine. I find it so moving. The last six lines I can't actually read without weeping. It seems an anthem for all those who carry on through illness and misfortune doing the best that they can.

message 4: by Laurel (new)

Laurel | 1486 comments Mod
I've always loved this and like Hilary the last part is one of my favourites. When we studied it for A-level my English teacher made a point about the ending that almost spoiled it for me but I'm a Gemini so I can quite happily hold two contradictory opinions at the same time without getting into an argument with myself ;)

message 5: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 2082 comments Teachers have a lot to answer for sometimes! I think poetry can really suffer if it's over analysed. The strength of poetry is in the way it can generate such strong emotions in such few words and picking it apart, as you have to do in exams, can just destroy the effect it is meant to have.

message 6: by Lee (new)

Lee I used to regret not having studied poetry at school but having read both your comments I think that maybe I should think myself lucky :0)

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