A critical appreciation of 'Ulysses' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
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Ana-Maria Fernandes 12WB A critical appreciation of 'Ulysses' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson 'Ulysses' was written in October 1833 after Tennyson learned about his friend Arthur Hallam's death. Ulysses, based on the Greek mythology character Odysseus, longs for adventure, is going to leave his Kingdom of Ithica to his son Telemachus and set out in an adventure which may reunite him with his comrade in the Trojan war, Achilles. The poem is in the form of blank verse, unrhymed iambic pentameter and is a dramatic monologue. In the first part of the poem, Ulysses is listing the problems that he has. Ulysses describes himself as an 'Idle king', which shows he is restless and although he governs, is not getting any satisfaction from it. This description is Ulysses' thought process, as he says how he is 'match'd with an aged wife', he most probably would not say this out loud. Ulysses says how he 'mete and dole unequal laws unto a savage race'. The mete and dole' are beneath him and he wants more king like duties.
For Ulysses, 'experience is an arch wherethro' Gleams that unraveled world whose margin fades for ever and ever when I move'. Through this he is showing us that, the more we know, the more we realize we do not know. The 'margin' is the horizon, which diminishes as we get more distant from it by moving on through life. The repetition of 'ever' show there is so much more to see and do. Ulysses says that it is wrong to 'rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use! Here, he is comparing our talents to a sword, saying that we should not let it rust, but use it to the maximum. The exclamation at the end of the line shows his strong reaction to this. Ulysses wants more and this is conveyed by ' As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life were all too little', which shows that simply breathing is not enough. The repetition and alliteration of 'life', gives the impression of being restricted. Tennyson has made effective use of a caesura in 'Little remains: but every hour is saved' to emphasize the fact that Ulysses is contemplating how much time he has left and what can be done about it.
The contrasting images of 'thunder and sunshine' show how the mariners were there for Ulysses through good and bad times. By starting the line with 'Death closes all: Tennyson makes it emphatic and shows how Ulysses wants to make the most of his life. Ulysses says that 'some work of noble note can be done' which will suite him as he has noble qualities. The assonance in 'Long day wanes' and 'slow moon climbs' drags the line down and shows how time is running out. The run - on line 'come my friends 'Tis not too late' shows how Ulysses is trying to win over his mariners, into one more battle. The 'purpose holds', shows that they are soldiers. Ulysses' main aim is to reach the 'Happy Isles' to see 'Achilles, whom we knew'. The 'one equal temper of heroic hearts', shows the strength of the mariners and Ulysses. The last line of the poem ' To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield' is a very regular iambic rhythm and enforces the sense of heroism. In conclusion, Tennyson, through effective use of alliteration and assonance, helps us to understand Ulysses' need for adventure and to be reunited with his friend Achilles.
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