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  1. 1. Brame/1Eric M. BrameDr. Anna Maria JonesENG 3010: Practical CriticismFebruary 18, 2010 The Context of “Ulysses,” by Lord Tennyson Alfred: Political Metaphors in the Poetry of Alfred Unlocked Alfred, Lord Tennyson was a poet who wrote “Ulysses” in the nineteenth century. It is acomposed of tenor, vehicle, and ground, which are the recipes of metaphor (Furniss and Bath150). “Ulysses” uses a large amount of metaphoric language to express to express its many facetsand lays of philosophy which are far too intricate to express in full detail. Tennyson expressesthroughout the poem “Ulysses” his desire for adventure, the love of his son, and cupidity totravel throughout the oceans. “Ulysses” is a type of “idyll” poem; Cuddon explains: “It can referto either a poem or episode in a poem, or to a poem which describes some episode or scene inrural life” (412)… The poem written by Tennyson is about a man that travels the oceans, whilethe metaphors describe his mood, and state of mind toward his oldest son, in which he expressesthat his son should wield great political power. Tennyson seems to be implying that his adventures around the world could be comparedto Homer’s epic poem: “The Odyssey.” The author of “Ulysses” states that he has a son, which isthe tenor (34), due to fact that he had two sons in his lifetime. On the same line he seems tospeak about his oldest son Hallam Tennyson due to him being called “Telemachus” which wasthe crowned prince in the Odyssey of homer. Further supporting of evidence is the phrase: “Towhom I leave the scepter and the isle” (35). The poem’s author expresses that the he desires thathis child grow to inherit his fortune. It is suspect that the author was traveling immensely,
  2. 2. Brame/2longing to see his children, and bestow his Last Will and Testimony to his oldest son. It seemsthat Tennyson shows his frustration of not seeing his children by juxtaposing the monarchy withhis struggles. He implies this by lampooning Queen Victoria by stating “It little profits that anidle king [monarchy], by this still hearth among, among these barren crags” (1-2). Theassumption that can be made is that he desired for his son to be the monarch instead of QueenVictoria. “[The] scepter and the Isle” (35) is the vehicle because Tennyson did not give Hallan aliteral throne in which to rule over. Instead Tennyson actually desires to express that his sonHallan is his treasure in life and would give him the entire planet if it was within his power. Thisis why the poem is very dark and pessimistic instead of light-hearted. The general evidence ofthis piece is that Tennyson had a son (tenor) who, in his mentality, was the love of his life(vehicle). The remaining factor for the argument is the ground, which is expressed in the noun“Telemachus.” Due this it seems that the context of the poem is Tennyson saying throughovertone: “I have a son who is the monarch and love of my life, who will conquer the world withme.” Using the context of the former paragraphs, the poem “Ulysses” will be further analyzed.In “Ulysses” Tennyson seems to center the entire poem on the heir of his fortune, as previouslystated. He expanded upon the idea of conquering the world with his son, but shifts frompessimism to optimism. He wrote: “It may be we shall touch the happy isles, And see the greetAchilles” (69-70). The tenor of the lines is that adventures will reach land, but the vehicle is thatAchilles was at war with Troy, which means, that it is the vehicle. In context with the poem itseems to add the ground that seems to show the author saying to his son: “We will conquer landlands like Achilles, and we shall rule the world together.” In lines 40-41, the author explains that
  3. 3. Brame/3his son is perfect, blameless, and deserves the best that Great Britain has to offer, including thecrown – if not crown, governorship. The poem, although it is about the son of Tennyson, throughout the poem, situationalirony arises, as he explains that he desires to rule, and has the lust of rule, which he desires togive to his first born son. However, he makes a key statement that added to the internal context: There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail: There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners, Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and Thought With me – (45-50)This further explains the situational irony in context of the metaphors analyzed, due to its qualityof separation, both between father and son, along with father and country. Both quotes from lines45 to 50 and 34 to 35 show that the father in reality is under the command of the monarchy.“There lies the port” (45) shows that the father is about to depart upon his journey at sea, whichtook about three to four years in the ninetieth century. The existence of a port where ships rest isof tenor quality while “Souls that have toiled” is of vehicle quality. The ground would be thegloomy and dark seas which the author and the mariners had to navigate. It seems that in light oflines 34 to 35, lines 45 to 50 suggest that the sailors were also thinking about their families anddesired to return to England. From the passages, the context of the poem seems to suggest that the mariners (sailors)along with Tennyson desire to rebel against the monarch, but they are caught in a paradox offamily values, love toward their countrymen and their own necessities while they are sailing
  4. 4. Brame/4through the oceans. Lines 34 to 35 and 45 to 50 are the context needed to show that the poem isabout the vicious cycle between sailors, their country, and family, being in competition with themonarchy. Throughout the poem the soul of the piece hinges on the climax of the poet’s love forhis son and the paradox of the monarch ruling of his family while he is at sea. Instead he desiresto rule over the monarch with his oldest son. Yet such a desire is completely unrealistic andcrumbles when the poet states: “To strive, to seek, to find and not yield” (77). According to thishis desires for his son are fruitless. The entire poem is about the poet’s futile desires.
  5. 5. Brame/5 Works CitedCuddon, J. A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. 4th ed. New York: Penguin, 2000. Print.Furniss, Tom, and Mike Bath. Reading Poetry: An Introduction. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2007. Print.Tennyson, Alfred. Literary Analysis 2. Comp. Anna M. Jones. Orlando: University of Central Florida, 2010. Print. Dr. Anna Jones asked for the student to analyze ?Ulysses." The instructions state: "Underline, highlight, or circle all the words and phrases that seem metaphorical to you. Having done this, try to say what the poem is about and how the metaphors contribute to the poem."