Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) an English poet is often thought of as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. Lord Tennyson’s close friend and, sister’s finance, Arthur Hallum died at the young age of 22 from a cerebral hemorrhage. (Tennyson himself lived into his 80’s.) His uses of characters from Greek mythology demonstrate the reflection that the meaning, and purpose, of one’s life is more important than the number of years.
In his poem, “Ulysses”, Tennyson writes this work as a narrative, portraying the feelings of the once great Ulysses, now in his final years. Ulysses was the king of the Greek isle Ithaca. His great deeds include his order of the building of the Trojan horse to save Helen of Troy. He and 19 other soldiers hid in the horse and later allowed the Greek army into the city gates of Troy, thus saving Helen. The great king also encountered Gods, a sorceress, the “song of the Siren”, and a monster that killed his warships crews. Ulysses himself returned home safely to Ithaca. Ulysses’ mood in Tennyson’s poem is melancholy with an unrealistic wish to return to the journeys, wars and adventures of his younger years. He wishes to reunite with his long dead companions, although his wife and people are with him. Although they have been without him through many years during travels, and his family has ruled and maintained his kingdom against turmoil in his absence, he shows almost total indifference to his wife or the people under his rule that he left behind. His wife is hardly spoken of, appearing only briefly at the beginning. Due to the forces and facts of time, the day-to-day care of his kingdom has become the daily grind that he is now forced to endure. However what he truly wishes to regain, if not his youth, at least the glory of it.
“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...