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Ulysses

Ulysses

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Traveling and Sailing

Symbol Analysis

Ulysses has done a lot of traveling; it took him ten years to get home from Troy, which means he's had an entire decade to visit a whole lot of places. Apparently, those ten years weren't enough because all he talks about is leaving home again. It's not entirely clear whether Ulysses wants to visit any specific place or if he just wants to travel for its own sake. Maybe he just likes the smell of the ocean air. Either way, he wants to get out of Dodge.

  • Line 6: Ulysses explains that he can't stop traveling because he wants to get the most out of life.
  • Lines 9-11: Ulysses describes storms at as resulting from the Hyades "vexing the sea." "Vex" means to upset, stir up, trouble; attributing human actions to a non-living thing (the Hyades) is called personification.
  • Lines 12-15: Ulysses tells us that he's visited a lot of different places with different governments, people, foods, and the like. He portrays himself as some kind of predatory animal, "roaming with a hungry heart." Because he doesn't say "I was like a lion" or "I roamed just as a lion might," this is a metaphor.
  • Lines 19-21: Ulysses compares life to an arch – that's a metaphor again – and explains that the "untravelled world" (death; places he hasn't experienced) gleams through it. The "untravelled world" is likened to some kind of planet or luminous world, which means this is also a metaphor.
  • Lines 44-45: Ulysses directs our attention to the "port," where the mariners are preparing the ship. The ship can't "puff" its own sail; the wind is probably doing it. Attributing human characteristics to non-living objects is personification.
  • Line 46: Ulysses refers to his "mariners" as "souls." The "soul" is part of the body; using a part (the soul) to stand in for the whole (the mariners) is called synecdoche.
  • Lines 56-7: Ulysses tells his companions that even though they're old, they still have time to visit places they haven't already seen. Ulysses probably doesn't have any specific place in mind so "a newer world" is standing in for a host of potential places he might visit; this is another example of synecdoche.
  • Lines 58-9: Ulysses exhorts his mariners to set sail; the phrase "smite / the sounding furrows" compares the act of rowing to hitting or striking something; hitting something that makes a sound is here a metaphor for rowing.
  • Lines 60-61: Ulysses says he intends to sail "beyond the sunset," which is another way of saying he intends to sail beyond the known universe. "Beyond the sunset" is a metaphor.

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