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Contrasts between Ulysses' past and present in Tennyson's "Ulysses"


In Tennyson's "Ulysses," the main contrast between Ulysses' past and present is that he was once a mighty warrior and adventurer, but is now an aged, bored king dissatisfied with his idle existence. His past was filled with thrilling exploits and honor, while his present life feels meaningless and passionless. This poem highlights the difficulty of aging and the longing for past glories.

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What contrasts between Ulysses' past and present are depicted in Tennyson's "Ulysses"?

Essentially, the main contrast between Ulysses' past and present is that, in his past, the king was a mighty warrior and adventurer, while, in his present, he is an aged statesman bored with his idle existence and unhappy with the companionship of his family and subjects. One of the major points of Tennyson's "Ulysses" is to describe this contrast, and it quickly becomes very clear that Ulysses glorifies his legendary past while regarding his present situation with distaste. For instance, take a look at how Ulysses describes his past exploits:

Much have I seen and known; cities of men 
And manners, climates, councils, governments, 
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all; 
And drunk delight of battle with my peers, 
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. (13-17)
From this description, it's obvious that Ulysses' past was filled with adventure, epic warfare, and great deeds worthy of legendary heroes. To contrast this thrilling description, take a look at how Ulysses describes his present:
It little profits that an idle king,  By this still hearth, among these barren crags,  Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole  Unequal laws unto a savage race,  That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. (1-5)
It's clear that Ulysses regards his present life as boring, meaningless, and lacking in passion, and this dull assessment is emphasized by the king's sentimental assessment of his heroic past.   All in all, the main contrast here is that, in the past, Ulysses was a mighty warrior capable of great deeds, but he is now reduced to an old man who feels confined by his duties and his age. Thus, this poem is really about the aging process and how an elderly individual deals with the inability to live the life he enjoyed in his youth. By presenting this process in the legendary context of Ulysses and The Odyssey, Tennyson dramatically highlights its inherent difficulty. 
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What opposition exists between the past and the present in Tennyson's Ulysses?

Ulysses' past life was challenging, strenuous, and exciting. He "drunk delight of battle" with his comrades, and saw the world, including "cities of men...councils, [and] governments" who honored him for his achievements. His past was thus that of a epic hero. His present, on the other hand, is boring and uneventful. Having returned from his adventures, he is now an "idle king" married to an "aged wife" in Ithaca. He compares himself to a sword that is permitted to "rust unburnished, not to shine in use."  Ulysses makes it clear that his past is preferable to his current situation. He thus resolves to set out in search of "some work of noble note" that "may yet be done." He recognizes that he does not want to die in quiet comfort, but rather in a manner that is consistent with his life. He will seek adventure with his comrades rather than live peacefully with his family. 

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