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.