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"Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

English 1302 Poetry Presentation and Analysis

Ebube Okeke

on 6 August 2013

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Transcript of "Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Thesis Statement: “Ulysses” may not rhyme but the poem has a deeper meaning, which can be inferred through the analysis of the literary elements, for the author himself and the readers.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
• “He was the fourth in a family of twelve children, many of whom suffered from a variety of emotional and character disorders, drug addiction, and familial dissension” (Bloom 11)
• “Alfred had an unhappy and unstable childhood, the details of which account for many of the most prevalent themes throughout his works” (Bloom 12)
• Went with his brothers to Cambridge University.
• He stopped writing for 9 years after harsh criticism for his poems in 1932.
• Named Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign.
• Victorian poet / Wrote during the Victorian Era (1832-1901)
• Writing style: personal melancholy
• His writing reflected religious doubts of the time period & social certitude
Summary of the poem "Ulysses"
"Ulysses" is about Ulysses' longing to be back at sea and on an adventure rather than being stuck on his island home of Ithaca. The poem is a monologue spoken by Ulysses himself, where he talks about his desires and his depression. Time is ticking for Ulysses, and he rather spend the rest of his life living than dying. The poem concludes with his resolution to "strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
The poem is a dramatic poem spoken by Ulysses. The lines are in blank verse or unrhymed iambic pentameter. This helps to create the natural flow of the poem. Many thoughts in poem do not end at the line-break but in the middle of the next line. This is called enjambment.
Works Cited
Bloom, Harold. Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House, 1999.
Lord Tennyson, Alfred. "Ulysses." Literature: An Introduction to
Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 12th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. Print.

Literary Devices in the Poem
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. (44-5)

Ulysses is reminiscing about his time out at sea

‘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. (57-61)

More sailing imagery
Literary Devices continued...
"How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use" (23-4)

this metaphor comparing him to a dull, lifeless surface that has been over come by rust (a deteriorating substance) because he has paused his adventures suggest that without his travels he also feels dead and deteriorated

"...this gray spirit yearning in desire To follow knowledge..." (30-1)

He refers to his spirit as gray to symbolize his age and to further emphasize that regardless of it, he still yearns for knowledge

Meaning/In-depth analysis of the poem
The title:
• Related to Greek/Roman mythology. Ulysses is Roman & Odysseus is Greek.
• The Ulysses in “Ulysses” is a mixture of Odysseus from Homer’s Odyssey and Ulisse from Dante’s Inferno.
• “Tennyson’s own experience of the two figures Odysseus and Ulisse becomes in this poem his experience of a third, his own Ulysses” (Bloom 41). They are one in the same.
• The mood of “Ulysses” is related to the death of Tennyson’s dear friend, Arthur Henry Hallam.
• “The personal context makes Tennyson’s poem a work of mourning for a dearly cherished friend” (Bloom 30).
• The poem implies how Tennyson is going to get past the death.
Meaning/In-depth analysis continued...
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little (22-5)
Meaning/In-depth analysis continued...
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought. (31-2)
Meaning/In-depth analysis continued...
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. (70)
Discussion questions
1. What kind(s) of imagery do you see most often in the poem? Give some examples.
2. What figures of speech are included (metaphor, simile, personification?
i. How does this affect your understanding and appreciation of the poem?
3. What is the mood of the poem?
4. Identify words which have a connotative meaning which help to clarify the author's tone.
5. Explain the significance of the poem's title.
6. Based on your analysis, what do you think is the author's purpose in writing this poem? That is, what universal truth does he want to share with his readers (theme)?
Ebube Okeke
English 1302

"roaming with a hungry heart" (11)

the personification of his heart as hungry emphasizes his need and desire (or hunger) for adventure

"the vessel puffs her sail" (44)

the feminine personification of the vessel, emphasizes his love for adventure because he sees an object that he uses for his travels as a female human being not just an object
This is the last line of the poem. It has a special meaning to the author himself because of the recent loss of his friend; but it also has a meaning to readers, young and old. It is similar to the phrase "carpe diem."

"Lead a purposeful life, he says, while remaining fully aware that time is a precious commodity" (Bloom 32).
Dissatisfaction - Ulysses does not believe in taking breaks from adventure. He believes that one should go on doing exciting things or they will become boring. Being alive is no longer enough for Ulysses.
"He wishes to leave this world behind and seek renewal in a life after death" (Bloom 31).

Immortality -
"Ulysses is in search for immortality...That "sinking star" becomes a symbol of the dying hero and points to the underlying theme of his quest--namely, that in longing to be reunited with his friend, Ulysses is expressing a death-wish" (Bloom 31).

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