Published in 1842, Alfred Tennysons Ulysses is a dramatic monologue sonnet that express the restlessness of a king, who due his old age has to retire his thrown and give to his son. Inspired by the death of the authors friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, the poem proves to be one of Tennysons finest works and a backbone of the poetry anthologies. In order to understand the poem, the setting is crucial as it plays a significant role throughout the poem. The setting of the sonnet is at different places in Ithaca, from the palace or castle of Ulysses, to battle fields in savage lands and even on shore or sea. The significance of all these places is to show the different conflicting moods that the king, Ulysses, has on the events of his life. The aim of this essay is to analyze the predominant theme and the figurative language in the Ulysses poem.
The central and predominant theme of Ulysses entails the search of the meaning, adventure, and experience that makes life invaluable and worth living and struggling with. The persona in the poem is an old adventurer, who is old as has witnessed many wars and gone for several quests. In fact, he considers himself old, thus does not conquer with the meaning and purpose of living. He considers his works in the lifetime by recalling its events in conflicting and nostalgic moods and seems to welcome death when he says death closes all: but something ere the end. The theme is further extrapolated by the second section of the poem where the persona, Ulysses suggests that his son Telemachus is the best person to lead the kingdom showing that he is giving up on life as he does not see the reason remaining a king yet he is old (This is my son, mine own Telemachus/To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,-Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil). Ulysses seems to opt for more adventure than staying at the palace if death will not claim him. One might be inclined to think that he is selfish to abadon his wife in pursuit of a quest, but he portrays to the audience that life is meaningless without such adventure when he says:How dull it is to pause, to make an end/To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
Symbolism and metaphors are among the figurative language used in the poem. Symbolism is used majorly used to send a message to the readers on the importance to live life through adventure failure to which it is meaningless to continue living. The use of Ulysses as the major character of the sonnet is itself a symbol, as he is portrayed as a famous Greek warrior during the Trojan War. Further, Ulysses is predominantly he established the major them on the meaning and adventures of life, and whether life is worth living. Precisely, the line I will drink/Life to the lees signifies the personas adventurous nature and extrapolates that the meaning of living life is to make the most of its adventures. The use of these symbols enables the reader to identify with Ulysses and contributes to the fluency of the poem.
The metaphors used in the poem are used to compare for the purpose of pictorial imprint in the readers mind on the personas feelings about boring and unadventurous life. The line Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'/Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades makes a metaphorical memories that recall the adventures that Ulysses had and thus now are considered portents to his future. Further, in lines 12 to 15 of the poem, Ulysses talks of the places he has travelled to with different people, foods, and government, metaphorically portraying him as some sort of predatory animal and bringing out the imagery of sailing and travelling. Conclusively, the author appreciates the effect of the use of symbolism and metaphors in the poem, making it interesting to read and recite..
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