Based on your reading of the first stanza of the poem "Ulysses," can you guess the age of the speaker? Justify your assertion with reference to the first stanza of the poem.

The speaker in the poem is an old man. There are various clues to this in the first stanza, like when the speaker says he is "match'd with an aged wife." Later, he says that he has "seen and known" much, suggesting he has lived a long time. He also says that "of [life] to me / Little remains." At the end of the stanza, he describes himself as a "gray spirit."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is fairly clear from the first stanza of Tennyson's "Ulysses " that the speaker is an old man nearing the end of his life. There are quite a few textual clues you could pull out to back up this assertion. For example, at the start of the stanza,...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

It is fairly clear from the first stanza of Tennyson's "Ulysses" that the speaker is an old man nearing the end of his life. There are quite a few textual clues you could pull out to back up this assertion. For example, at the start of the stanza, the speaker says that he is "match'd with an aged wife." We can assume from this, then, that he is saying he too is aged, since he and his wife are a "match'd" pair.

The speaker then goes on to discuss the many things he has done in his life. Although it is possible that a young man might have "seen and known" much, the description the speaker gives of how long he has been "always roaming" suggests that this has all taken place over a period of time.

Next, the speaker betrays the fact that "little remains" of his life. Life feels "all too little" to him because he is coming to the end of his time on earth.

Towards the end of the stanza, he describes himself as a "gray spirit" who is yearning for a time when he will be able to follow knowledge beyond what "human thought" can understand. This suggests a metaphor for death. The speaker is hoping to understand things which a living person could not really understand, when his death finally comes upon him. The word "gray" of course could allude to many things, but in this instance it suggests the weariness of age, and also perhaps gray hair.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on