Saturday, July 30, 2011

Poem In Your Post: Ulysses

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
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 honor'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
For ever and for ever 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
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bounds of human thought.

  This is my son, mine own Telemachos,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle-
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
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
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 tol'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;
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,
'Tis 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
Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be that 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 heaven and earth; 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.

                            - Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1833)

Having read graphic novelizations of both Dante's Divine Comedy (Seymour Chwast adaptation) and The Odyssey (Gareth Hinds adaptation) this week, this stunner - and for some the quintessential dramatic monologue of a poem - floated up from dreams into memory this morning.

I'd only part-memorized it about (gulp) 20 years ago, but I'm now longing to try again.  Perhaps Tennyson's version of the wily one has finally inspired me not to yield.

If you have a poem to share this week, all our visitors would be much obliged.  Post it in a blog entry then link back here iin the comments or simply add the poem directly to the the comments below.  (And/or tell us your memories of Ulysses - in any of his forms - as well...)

(FYI: Something went wonky with the linky so for now we're going old school: put your blogpost URL in the comments...)

MFB, in Ithacas of old and on the wine-dark seas,

p.s. Interested in the background on "Ulysses"?  Try this not-half-bad wikipedia article to begin.
And here are the two graphic texts I read this week...

Check it out here...(scroll
down to see some pages)

Look inside here.


parrish lantern said...


Siren Song

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who had heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember.
Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
I don’t enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two feathery maniacs,
I don’t enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.
Margaret Atwood

Laurie said...

PL: Perfect! I actually thought about posting this one myself; it's one of my favorite Atwood poems, and plays counterpoint to "Ulysses" in structure and content, yet shares the dramatic monologue form. I have a Poetry Out Loud video of a brilliant young actress delivering this piece: she brings out the sly humor, and the performance works.
As ever, I'm grateful that you keep bringing stand-out poems here.

Indian Pharmacy said...

Some of the best poems were write in the Greek era, I think that your post is one of the most interesting ones , I would like to study poetry !

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