31 March 2007

On Tennyson's "Ulysses"

As I prepare for my exam, I'm reading a lot of literature, which makes me extremely happy. I had forgotten how wonderful it was to lose myself in compelling stories and beautiful words. This is so much better than writing a thesis. :-)

Here are the final lines of Tennyson's "Ulysses," in which the aging hero allows his mind to drift again on a voyage with his brave mariners -- this time in a deeper, darker sea. I'd always thought of The Odyssey as having a happy ending, but this poem belies the myth of rest after striving. At the same time, it promises a greater striving and a fuller adventure.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
The topic of these lines, of course, is the voyage of mortals into the realm of immortality, but I think it is also a fitting metaphor for life changes like the ones I will soon be experiencing.

I'm excited to see what my voyage will bring.

1 comment:

Evil Bender said...

I'm not usually a fan of Tennyson. For me, he has much of the problems of Victorian England: excess in language, rigidity of thought and ethics, and the like.

These lines, though, are beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

When you know what your voyage will bring, please let me know! I'm having to make my own choices in that regard right now, and they're not easy.