Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 248
Context: Following Dante (Inferno, XXVI), Tennyson imagines Ulysses many years after his return home to Ithaca from the Trojan War. Though aged he is restless and he longs to set out with a band of mariners on a voyage of exploration and adventure like those he remembers from past years. He will leave his son Telemachus, a prudent administrator, to govern the kingdom in his absence. "He works his work," says Ulysses, "I mine." Though the whole poem is a dramatic monologue addressed to his mariners before the voyage begins, the first half seems more a soliloquy in which Ulysses muses on his present boredom with "an aged wife" and the dull business of ruling "a savage race,/ That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me." This existence is a waste of time, it seems, to a man who, though old, would still drink "Life to the lees." Then he reviews his past and proudly recalls his travels and his fame:
All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known–cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all–
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met; . . .