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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.Confronted again by domestic life, Ulysses expresses his lack of contentment, including his indifference toward the "savage race" (line 4) whom he governs.
"Ulysses" is a poem in blank verse by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892), written in 1833 and published in 1842 in his well-received second volume of poetry.
An oft-quoted poem, it is popularly used to illustrate the dramatic monologue form.
According to critic Dwight Culler, the poem has been a victim of revisionist readings in which the reader expects to reconstruct the truth from a misleading narrator's accidental revelations.
(Compare the more obvious use of this approach in Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess".) Culler himself views "Ulysses" as a dialectic in which the speaker weighs the virtues of a contemplative and an active approach to life; Ulysses moves through four emotional stages that are self-revelatory, not ironic: beginning with his rejection of the barren life to which he has returned in Ithaca, he then fondly recalls his heroic past, recognizes the validity of Telemachus' method of governing, and with these thoughts plans another journey.
In the twentieth century, some new interpretations of "Ulysses" highlighted potential ironies in the poem.
They argued, for example, that Ulysses wishes to selfishly abandon his kingdom and family, and they questioned more positive assessments of Ulysses' character by demonstrating how he resembles flawed protagonists in earlier literature.For example, the poem's insistent iambic pentameter is often interrupted by spondees (metrical feet that consist of two long syllables); such laboured language slows the poem (and in other places may cast doubt upon the reliability of Ulysses' utterances): The poem's seventy lines of blank verse are presented as a dramatic monologue.Scholars disagree on how Ulysses' speech functions in this format; it is not necessarily clear to whom Ulysses is speaking, if anyone, and from what location."Ulysses" and "The Lotos Eaters" are companion pieces but in tone and thought they are opposites, whereas "The Lotos Eaters" teaches us the lesson of rest and inaction, the second poem "Ulysses" inspires and excites us to be active and energetic in our life.As the poem begins, Ulysses has returned to his kingdom, Ithaca, having made a long journey home after fighting in the Trojan War.Facing old age, mythical hero Ulysses describes his discontent and restlessness upon returning to his kingdom, Ithaca, after his far-ranging travels.Despite his reunion with his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, Ulysses yearns to explore again.In the final section, Ulysses turns to his fellow mariners and calls on them to join him on another quest, making no guarantees as to their fate but attempting to conjure their heroic past: …Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.The speaker's language is unelaborated but forceful, and it expresses Ulysses' conflicting moods as he searches for continuity between his past and future.There is often a marked contrast between the sentiment of Ulysses' words and the sounds that express them.