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In Tennyson's poem 'Ulysses' we see the Victorian pre-occupation with progress, work, advancement and perseverance. This was a period of great social and technical advancement following hard on the heels of the transformation of England's transport network through the coming of the railways and canals. This meant it was now easy to transport the vast quanities of products from the textile mills,or coal from the mines, to ports and docks to be exported, and also to bring in more exotic goods from abroad.
This age was not without its difficulties however - there were tragic gruesome deaths in pit collapses and steamship scaldings and explosions as well as railway accidents and technological failures.Much new-found wealth was generated from the exploration and exploitation of new lands, but disease was a killer. Tennyson's poem expresses the need to persevere regardless in all life's battles to win through to the rewards at the end - the indefatigable quest for knowledge and the innovations it brings.
The notion of delayed gratification and a sense of struggle is evident in Tennyson's poem. His depiction of the Homer's character is one where constant struggle and subjugation of one's happiness is evident. The closing line of "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" can be seen in the Victorian light of repressed and deferred joy. Tennyson's protagonist is incapable of enjoying his life and the existence no longer tethered to work (the fighting and the challenges of war.) In many respects, this is tied to the Victorian sensibility of duty, responsibility, and work. In the Victorian setting, all of these attributes lead to greater economic products and material wealth.
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