by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
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Symbol Analysis

There are a lot of sly references to animals in this poem, and we're not talking about Ulysses' poodle either. The residents of Ithaca are described as uncultivated people that just eat and sleep and need to be tamed like a bunch of wild animals. Ulysses doesn't want to end up like them, which he sees as a very real possibility if he stays in Ithaca. He wants to be a different kind of animal, a predatory one that wanders around, consuming different places as if they were exotic prey.

  • Line 5: Ulysses describes his subjects like animals; they don't eat, they "feed" like pigs out of a trough. Oh, and they "hoard" too, as if they were getting ready to hibernate. Some unspecified animal is here a metaphor for the citizens of Ithaca.
  • Line 12: Ulysses compares himself to a lion or tiger, "roaming" the seas with a "hungry heart." One of those animals, or a similar animal, is a metaphor for Ulysses.
  • Lines 28-9: Ulysses remarks that if he stays in Ithaca he'll end up just like his subjects, sitting around "storing and hoarding" things as if preparing for hibernation and an unproductive life. Again, some unspecified animal is here a metaphor for Ulysses.
  • Lines 37-8: Here again some kind of animal is a metaphor for the people of Ithaca. They are "rugged" – almost like a stallion that hasn't learned how to wear a saddle yet – and have to be "subdued." Some unspecified, savage animal is here a metaphor for the citizens of Ithaca.