”You know what this needs? More obscure references to Greek mythology!” -Tennyson, probably
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter 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, centered 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 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 honor 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,
'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
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.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1833
Ulysses is the epitome of Romantic poetry, chock-full of mythological references and metaphors. I found it in a mundane, modern way, scrolling through Poem Miner, waiting for something to catch my eye. And, well, Ulysses did. What originally pulled me in was that first line; “This is my son, mine own Telemachus.” I was hooked. This was not a piece of folk poetry with hundreds of variations; this was something venerable, secure, and positively ancient. I read through the whole thing, silently mouthing the words to myself. By the end of it all, I was certain that this was going to be my piece.