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

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Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey reminded us of Tennyson’s marvellous poem Ulysses. Here are the closing lines:

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 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.

Just listen to the meter of that last line, the three heavy stresses falling on not to yield. Magnificent.

You can read the whole thing here:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45392/ulysses

Image: Wikimedia Commons

8 thoughts on “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

  1. ‘E ‘ad a way wiv wurds, di’n’e, wrote lots o’ rimes an’ all, e’ frew ’em aht at two a penny like a barker a’ a stall. “If you can spare a bit o’ time and offer me your penny, son, I’ll give you back a coupla rimes or me name’s not Alfred Tennyson.”

    That’s genuine an’ all, that, straight up.

  2. What a wonderful poem! I hadn’t read it before. Is it a poem about old age in general. do you think? It reminds me of those lines of Yeats in some ways: ‘An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat ups a stick, unless soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing for every tatter in its mortal dress.’

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