Bring out the fundamental opposition between the past and the present in the life of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Ulysses.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Ulysses' past life was challenging, strenuous, and exciting. He "drunk delight of battle" with his comrades, and saw the world, including "cities of men...councils, [and] governments" who honored him for his achievements. His past was thus that of a epic hero. His present, on the other hand, is boring and uneventful. Having returned from his adventures, he is now an "idle king" married to an "aged wife" in Ithaca. He compares himself to a sword that is permitted to "rust unburnished, not to shine in use."  Ulysses makes it clear that his past is preferable to his current situation. He thus resolves to set out in search of "some work of noble note" that "may yet be done." He recognizes that he does not want to die in quiet comfort, but rather in a manner that is consistent with his life. He will seek adventure with his comrades rather than live peacefully with his family. 


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