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What is the theme of Tennyson's poem "Ulysses"?  

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ewilliams110 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 27, 2011 at 7:25 AM via web

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What is the theme of Tennyson's poem "Ulysses"?

 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 27, 2011 at 8:08 PM (Answer #1)

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Throughout this excellent and memorable poem, the key focus is on the age of Ulysses, but at the same time his uncompromising desire to carry on living his life to the full and not to allow himself to stagnate and just sit there, awaiting death. Note how this wanderlust and desire for adventure is captured towards the end of the poem:

'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my pupose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

Ulysses is not a character that will let death take him without a fight. He expresses an inexorable determination to extract every ounce of pleasure, adventure and enjoyment of life and will not allow himself to meekly and submissively wait for death to take him. Another moving moment in the poem comes right at the end:

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Although time will obviously take our strength away from us, we must remain true to who we are as individuals and never stop seeking knowledge and adventures. Although our physical strength will decline and our life will fade away, our will to live never weakens. A great reminder for those of us who are not as young as we used to be!

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