Friday, February 08, 2008

Ulysses

 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.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 10
Vext 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 honour'd 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;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades 20
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire 30
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,--
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail 40
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me--
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil; 50
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is 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 60
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
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. 70


~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

4 comments:

Imani said...

Best poem ever! I have it written out in one of my journals so that I can have a look at it every now and again. It's also one of those poems that begs to be spoken out loud, complete with dramatic hand gestures and facial expressions.

(Or is that just me? *ahem*)

Imani said...

It's also a Harold Bloom favourite, so whenever I'm listening to him getting in a huff and I'm tempted to curl my lips and back away I remind myself, He does adore "Ulysses"; he can't be that bad.

Matt said...

Ulysses seems to be a hit, cropping up all over the place. My undergrads are reading Ulysses, and the book that I'm reading now, Contempt by Italian writer Alberto Moravia, muses on the Odessey. I might re-read Odessey as well soon.

Dark Orpheus said...

Imani It is a great poem, and it deserves to be read aloud, with dramatic presentation.

I would actually like to watch a grand actor read this poem on stage. Maybe someone like Peter O'Toole, with his voice and his blue, blue eyes. I was in love with those eyes in "Troy" the movie.

Can you see it? A grand gentleman, his body still sinewy - legacy of a strong, heroic youth. His beard and hair are white but his eyes still fierce and sharp. He stands to great heights and he speaks these lines, his voice robust and clear.

I think Harold Bloom is an old romantic himself.

Matt Ulysses is very stirring. And I think a lot of us can identity with the poem, especially towards the end:

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' 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.

I get tingles every time I read these lines.

Good for you on re-reading The Odyssey. I have never completed my first reading. ;p