Question No. 4 – Reference to the Context – Poem 5
The lines given for explanation have been extracted from the poem entitled Ulysses, composed by Lord Alfred Tennyson.
About the Poet
Lord Alfred Tennyson occupies a very important and prominent position in the domain of English Literature. He is the representative poet of Victorian era. He is a prolific poet and has composed a number of poems. Tennyson’s poetry is rich in imagery as that of keats but it lacks the romantic fine of Words Worth and Coleridge.
About the Poem
Ulysses is a long, magnificent, symbolical and moral boosting poem. The poem is written in the dramatic monologues of the powerful blank verse and tells the story of the most prudent and bravest of the Greek heroes, Ulysses of Homer’s Odyssey. He is the symbol of adventurous spirit, indomitable courage, inexhaustible zeal; unflinching faith; unshakable determination and unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Ulysses wants to set out on a journey of discovery because he believes that it is not too late to find a New World.
Souls that have toil’d and wrought ———— Free haerts, free foreheads – you and I are old;
Ulysses is addressing his fallow sailors; those brave ones who worked hard and have accomplished treat deeds in the past happily and even beard the hardships of rough season and sunshine. He further plays attribute on them that, they are free even with noble souls. Our old ages have stid to keep us away from any long journey to explore thus world or to keep glory up. He is addressing those mariners who had all those qualities and he is converging them to join him in his last journey as they did in the past by giving them the few best example and glories of their pride.
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil ———– No unbecoming men that strove with gods.
In these lines we are told how Ulysses inspired his men. He told them that no doubt old age brings its labours and honours with it. But we should do something remarkable before our death, benefiting great heroes who have often faced gods. Here Ulysses refers to old battles between men and gods, as told in the Greek mythology. According to Greek legend, Ulysses and his comrades strove with gods during the war between Greece and Troy, when the Gods themselves took rides in the contest, and doing Ulysses’s heroic journey back to Greece when he had to face great perils because he had angered Poseidon, the God of the Sea. The poet says that, death is power, the spirit of working and efforts come to an end when a man faces death, but a man should always do virtues and avoid troubling others. His actions will remain after his death. They will out live him. We should not do anything against Gods, but achieve some unusual. This is the honour of old age to face troubles and to yield something great to be remembered after the death.
The light begins to twinkle from the rocks ———Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends;
In these lines the poet tells us that although Ulysses and his friends are nearing the end of their lives, still for them there is a time to go and to find a New World. Ulysses tells his friends that the sun of their lives is going to set while the long day is going to an end. The moon is also rising this shows that night i.e. death is fast approaching. Still there is some time to go out and seek a New World. He means to say that they should not worry if they have become old.
The poet describes the sight of an evening. The days are losing its light. The moon is sailing in the sky. We can hear the sounds of the wave that are striking against the seashore. Come on my friends. It is never late to discover a New World. This is the evening of our lives yet we are in a position to explore a New World to be immortal after our death. The poet creates in sense of self confidence in his men and encouraged them to not to be disappointed to their old evenings of life, but to yield a New World.
Tis not too late to seek a newer world ———– Of all the western stars, untill I die.
In these lines, Ulysses urges his companions to come along with him, sit in order in the boat and start the voyage of discovery. He wants to set out on a journey of discovery with great confidence because it is his firm believe that it is not too late to find a New World. Therefore he asks his comrades to drive the oars with power and might because the sea looks dangerous as the noisy waves are rising ferociously. Ulysses is here conscious of the perils supposed to be created in the way by the sea God, Poseidon whom they had angered in the Trojan Wars. He tries to reassure them that they will overcome all the obstacles since he is determined to sail beyond the Western bank and touch the happy Isle before he dies. This thing shows that Ulysses is an adventurous person who has unquenchable thirst for knowledge and has a passion for discovery.
Through the symbolic character of Ulysses, Tennyson wants to evoke the spirit of adventure and unsatiable thirst for knowledge. He wants to convince us that each and every minute of life is very vital and one must struggle ceaselessly against heavy odds following the motto:
“To strieve, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Tho’ much is taken, much abides, and tho’ ————-To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
In these lines, Ulysses says to his comrades that although time has taken away many things from them but many things remain with them. They still possess courage and hope. They are still very brave.
He says that no doubt, they have lost a great deal of strength and energy but still they have much strength and powers to accomplish heroic deed. Of course they do not possess that strength and energy which they possessed in the past and used to perform deeds of bravery and accomplish great tasks.
Ulysses wants to say that in spite of being old, exhausted and physically feeble, they still possess some very remarkable qualities. In old age, a man has experience, knowledge and treasure of wisdom. He says that his mariners can perform memorable deed only if they take courage and struggle jointly.
“Lighter is the task when many share the toil.”
He says that they have strong hearts and high aims. There is unity of thought and action among them. Temperamentally they are one. So, they must struggle relentlessly and ceaselessly to discover a New World, to gain fresh knowledge and experience and not to acknowledge defeat. Some one has rightly said:
“Defeat should never be a source of discouragement, but rather a fresh stimulus.”
Through the symbolic character of Ulysses Tennyson wants to inspire the old, weak and exhausted people who can accomplish some great task even in old age. Action is life and inaction is death. So, one must continue his struggle against heavy odds till the last breath of life.