Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" is told from the perspective of the aged hero, years after his return to Ithaca. The poem is composed of three stanzas, and the mood and tone change from one to the next.
In the first stanza, Ulysses reflects on his past adventures and compares them to his current quiet life. The mood is restless and dissatisfied, as indicated in the opening verses, where Ulysses laments his "idleness" and expresses a sense of detachment from his subjects:
a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
The mood is underscored by the shift in Ulysses's tone when thinking of his younger days. From the dour opening lines, the tone becomes bright and nostalgic, as Ulysses notes proudly that
I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known . . .
Considering his past glories cheers him, but comparing them to his present state pulls Ulysses's tone back into frustration, and even despair:
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life!
In the second stanza, the mood changes. Having decided that he "cannot rest from travel," Ulysses appoints his son, Telemachus, to rule in his stead. The mood is assertive and the tone is brisk, as Ulysses lists Telemachus's credentials for ruling to justify his decision to leave Ithaca again:
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good . . .
When I am gone.
Ulysses is aware that his decision is selfish, but he is confident that his son is both fit to rule and better suited to the task. After all, not everyone is made for kingship—some people are meant to be adventurers,
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
As Ulysses says, "[Telemachus] works his work, I mine."
In the third stanza, having made his decision and the appropriate arrangements for leaving Ithaca, Ulysses's mood lifts. The language is eager and full of wonder at the possibilities that lie before him:
Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
. . . my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
While he knows that he is old and his best days are perhaps behind him, Ulysses wholeheartedly embraces the chance to venture out once again and make the most of the time that he has left.
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.