Although these are only the last few lines of a much longer, amazing poem, they sum up the moral of this story. This poem, “Ulysses,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, rivals Dylan Thomas’, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” Shakespeare’s, “Sonnet 116,” and Charles Bukowski’s, “Bluebird,” (well anything written by Bukowski really) as one of my all time favorite poems. (This is probably why I have those last 3 lines of the poem tattooed on my rib cage…)
It doesn’t hurt that Tennyson decided to incorporate the beloved mythical hero, Ulysses (aka Odysseus) into his poem, as I have a weird infatuation with mythology and tales of epic journeys full of dangerous obstacles to overcome.
Ulysses is an easy character for most readers to get behind. While he has the rare, sought after qualities of a typical hero: bravery, strength, courage, loyalty, pride, and the admiration of (certain) Gods, he is also, human. He makes mistakes, gets sidetracked, is easily manipulated by beautiful women, and he even dares to test the the honor of his wife, for fear she is no longer faithful. So very relatable.
What is so inspiring about this poem is how Tennyson created a “Part II” to the already much accomplished life of Ulysses. In this new addition, after everything he has seen, experienced, and suffered through, Ulysses is still not satisfied. Life cannot simply be over. Aging does not equal death, and life should be lived till the last breath forces its way out of our lungs.
Although time, and that god damn fate, “make us weak,” we are “strong in will,” and will never be finished fighting for more; striving, seeking, finding, and never, ever yielding.