In "Ulysses", what does Ulysses think he and his mariners can do before they die, even though they are old?

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accessteacher's profile pic

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

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This poem is famous for its spirit of unyielding adventure in the face of old age and stability. It's narrator, Ulysses, is famous for his journeyings back to his island kingdom of Ithaca, and now we are presented with a much older Ulysses who grows tired of the stability and boredom of his life and has a desperate, almost frantic desire to have one last adventure before he dies. He does not want to dwindle or wither away living a life that is marked by its absence of excitement and adventure. His determination to exact the most out of life is evident in a number of places in the poem:

I cannot rest from travel; I will drink

Life to the lees.

His commitment to adventure pushes him to take his faithful sailors and go on, seeking that one last big adventure before death itself claims them for eternal rest. Note the words of Ulysses as he calls his mariners to him:

'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

In these famous words, Ulysses calls for uncompromising action and asserts his determination to continue pursuing adventure and the unknown in life until his very death.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Ulysses and his men are old. They have brought peace to Ithaca and are quietly living out their days. Unlike his son Telemachus, Ulysses is restless. He has always felt the need for adventure. His home is Ithaca. But his restless spirit would have his home on the sea. He is supposing or outright asking his men to get ready for another adventure.

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows, for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die. (58-62)

Ulysses warns his men that they may die. “Happy Isles” refers to the Elysian Fields. This would be unfortunate, but they would be able to meet the fallen heroes of the past, such as Achilles. They are old but their temper and will are as strong as when they were young.

 

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