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An Idle King Essay, Research Paper

An Idle King

In “Ulysses,” Tennyson presents Ulysses, the great Greek war hero and warrior of the Trojan War, serving, again, as king of Ithaca. Ulysses, having been home for three years, feels himself stagnating and wasting his life in the unwanted role of king. Longs to be again the man he has been. Ulysses desires a life of independence, physical adventure, and intellectual pursuit.

Ulysses desires a life of independence. The island is dependent on him and the civilization “hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.” Ulysses yearns to escape to be on his own yet; the people rely on his kingship although they carry out life without giving much thought for Ulysses. He sees the “savage race” not aware of what his heart desires nor of adventure and/or intellectual life. After three years of being king, Ulysses feel old and his idleness leaves him with his name and reputation. Discerns that his subjects do not comprehend his personality, and believes that his talents are disappearing while staying at Ithaca. Ulysses says, “How dull it is to pause, to make an end” to a journey that has adventure, courageous events, and glory. He does not want to stop and live life as king, but to sail himself into independence. Telemachus, son of Ulysses, is more fitted to govern than his father does because Telemachus strives to take over “the scepter and the isle.” Secondly, Telemachus has the deposition that will allow him “? by slow prudence to make/A rugged people,” and bring them to a state that “is useful and ? good.” Ulysses sees his son able to amend the citizens up to a new level. In seeking independence, Ulysses chooses to give his throne to his son so he can rejuvenate his soul, and which allows himself to find greatness again.

Ulysses desires a life of physical adventure. He comes to realize that “For some three suns” he has “store[d], and hoard[ed]” himself as though to “rest from travel.” Remembers living abroad for twenty years as he “[roamed] with a hungry heart” seeking and feeling adventure. Destiny allows Ulysses to see much different “cities of men” where they have certain “manners, climates, councils, [and] governments,” which greet him with respect and honor. Ulysses also remembers of the times he has “enjoyed/Greatly, ? suffered greatly, both with those that loved me and alone.” The “delight of battle?/Far on the ringing planes of windy Troy” pleases Ulysses and calms his soul which seeks for more adventure. The king knows that breathing is not living and wishes to fulfill life with many adventures and experiences. What little life remains for Ulysses, he knows that “life plied on life,” one life after another, is not enough for all of the delightful wars. In addition, he apprehends that his sailors are old, like himself, but that “Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.” Ulysses desires a great amount of adventure by sailing with his hair in the wind again. This, he thinks, will save him from being “a gray spirit yearning in desire,” and will restore him to, like before, an active life.

Ulysses desires a life of intellectual pursuit. He finds satisfaction in physical adventure and in a continuos intellectual venture to fill his avid thirst for life. Ulysses continually seeks for knowledge, “Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.” Considers himself “?a part of all that ? [he has] met,” from the previous travels, yet he wishes “to seek a newer world.” How he will find the new destination is by “sail[ing] beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars, until [he dies].” Ulysses will continue his quest for intellectual pursuit traveling westward toward the unexplored land that might lie in the Atlantic Ocean and keep seeking knowledge until death overtakes him. In his monologue, Ulysses states, “? every hour ? saved from that eternal silence [death],” is “A bringer of new things.” Ulysses will undertake to reach the horizon, which is always from its pursuer, seeking new knowledge. Not only his thirst for insight will never be satisfied, but he plans, even if he has not, “that strength which in old days/Moved earth and heaven,” will be capable to strive, to seek, to find?.” The quest for wisdom makes Ulysses wants to leave his kingdom and feel the same again as years before.

Ulysses, who desires to be independent, finds that the life he returns to be not what after twenty years he has been searching. He feels that he needs to be adventurous, and wiser, so long as life permits his desires of sailing to the unknown.


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