8 Dec. 12 // “Ulysses” by Alfred Tennyson


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, and feed, and know not me.

 I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

 Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d

 Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those

 That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when

 Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades                       10

 Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;

 For always roaming with a hungry heart

 Much have I seen and known; cities of men

 And manners, climates, councils, governments,

 Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;

 And drunk delight of battle with my peers,

 Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

 I am a part of all that I have met;

 Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

 Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades             20

 For ever and forever when I move.

 How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

 To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

 As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life

 Were all too little, and of one to me

 Little remains: but every hour is saved

 From that eternal silence, something more,

 A bringer of new things; and vile it were

 For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

 And this gray spirit yearning in desire                      30

 To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

 Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.


   This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

 To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,–

 Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil

 This labour, by slow prudence to make mild

 A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees

 Subdue them to the useful and the good.

 Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere

 Of common duties, decent not to fail                         40

 In offices of tenderness, and pay

 Meet adoration to my household gods,

 When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.


   There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

 There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

 Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me–

 That ever with a frolic welcome took

 The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed

 Free hearts, free foreheads–you and I are old;

 Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;                    50

 Death closes all: but something ere the end,

 Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

 Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

 The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:

 The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

 Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

 ‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.

 Push off, and sitting well in order smite

 The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

 To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths                     60

 Of all the western stars, until I die.

 It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

 It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

 And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

 Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

 We are not now that strength which in old days

 Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

 One equal temper of heroic hearts,

 Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

 To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.               70

 Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892),

from Poems, in Two Volumes (London, Moxon: 1842)

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