Ulysses characterizes himself in the poem as a restless adventurer who is ill-suited for an adminstrator's job. As king of Ithaca, he feels as if he has been a poor legislator and an ineffective king. His past life as a warrior and a traveller has much more appeal to him. Now, he feels as if he is barely living. He yearns for another adventure, to "seek a newer world," "to do some work of nobel note," "to sail beyond sunset."
He appoints Telemachus as his successor. Telemachus, Ulysses feels, is much more suited to be a governor of his people than he is. Telemachus has the "slow prudence to make mild/ A rugged people, and through soft degreees/Subdue them to the useful and the good." Unlike Ulysses who feels as if his people do not even know him, Telemachus will be able to bring out the best in the people he governs. Telemachus is a competent civil leader while Ulysses is a much better military leader. Ulysses distinguishes the two of them by declaring that Telemachus "works his work, I mine."