In "Tithonus," how does Tennyson use an ancient myth to express a personal loss?

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In "Tithonus," to come to terms with the early death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, Tennyson uses the Greek myth of a person who ages but cannot die. By exploring Tithonus's agonized inability to die, Tennyson is helped to understand that his friend's death was a natural part of the cycle of life.

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In the ancient Greek myth of Tithonus, as told by Homer, Tithonus is the son of a Trojan king and a water nymph. He is granted immortality by Eos, the goddess of dawn, but she fails to ask that he become forever young along with living forever. Therefore, Tithonus is doomed to age and age but never to die. Eos stays young, but Tithonus grows old.

Tennyson wrote this poem as a counterpart to his poem "Ulysses," in which, as a defiant old man, Ulysses heads out for adventure. Tithonus wants nothing more than to be dead: he has given up on life.

The poem helped Tennyson in his quest to work through his grief over the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died at age twenty-two. By imagining himself into the plight of a person who tragically could not die, Tennyson was better able to understand and accept his friend's death as a natural end to an existence that only becomes unbearable if it lasts too long. Hallam might have died far too young, but at least he did not outlive his love and passion for life. In contrast, Tithonus begs to be taken from the earth, saying it is wrong to desire to live longer than is the normal place to "pause" or die:

Why should a man desire in any way
To vary from the kindly race of men
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?

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