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Eight reflections of Tennyson's "Ulysses".

In Memoriam: Douglas Bush, Dwight Culler, Edgar Shannon

I had ambition not only to go farther than any one had been before, but as far as it was possible for man to go.

--The Circumnavigator, Captain James Cook, R.N. (1)

1. An Anxiety of Influence (2)
   I dwell in sunny Ithaca ...

   Many islands lie about it quite close to one another,

   She herself sits low-lying, farthest out to sea
   Toward dusk, and they are apart toward dawn and the sun,
   Rugged but good for bringing up young men.

--Odyssey 9.21-27, trans. Albert Cook (3)


Alfred Tennyson attributed Ulysses' determination to persevere up to the last, in "Ulysses," to his own resolute choice in favor of lire and survival upon the traumatic news of the death of friend, soul-mate, and intending future brother-in-law Arthur Hallam (1833). A few years earlier the two Cambridge undergraduates considered printing their poems together in a single volume-Hallam's father successfully insisted the project be abandoned. (4) The publication might have included each poet's "Timbuctoo," written for the University's annually awarded Chancellor's Medal. Tennyson's prevailed (1829), and Hallam's note on his own effort-asserting the superiority of his friend's prize-winning entry-Alfred himself managed to suppress, upon the impending re-publication of Arthur's remains by his father.

A major effort, Hallam's "Timbuctoo" is written in the Dantean terza rima earlier used for his "Farewell to the South"; there his "one deep resolve" (l. 629) was to serve an ideal uniting virtue, truth, and poetry:
   I have an oath,
   Graven in the heart, that I will never drift
   Before the varying gale in aimless sloth
   Of purpose, like a battered wreck: but firm
   Intendment on the base of my young troth,

   Shall rear the fabric of a thinking life.

(ll. 630-636, Writings, p. 25)


Similar determination to live with intellectual purpose infuses the search for Timbuctoo, yet Hallam anxiously anticipates the discovery's destroying itself as pure Platonic idea: enhanced by "Imagination"-which also "decked [the] unknown caves" of "a land ... far from human sight... In the lone West" (ll. 1-4)-it will be contaminated by "Discovery":
   Perchance thou art too pure, and dost surpass
      Too far amid th' Ideas ranged high
      In the Eternal Reason's perfectness,
   To our deject and most imbased eye
      To look unharmed on thy integrity,
      Symbol of Love, and Truth, and all that cannot die.

 (ll. 115-120, Writings, p. 41)


Hallam probably refers to the celebrated veiled statue at Sais in Egypt, which ruined the too-curious violater's peace of mind for the rest of his life, (5) but the motif of losing a paradise by finding it particularly attaches to the Spanish in New Spain, and this example underlies another poem from this period of the poets' lives, Tennyson's own "Anacaona."

Tennyson's stated, high-minded reasons for suppressing Hallam's note on his "Timbuctoo"-"The poem [Hallam's] is everyway so much better than that wild and unmethodized performance of my own, that even his praise on such a subject would be painful" (6)--may have been quite sincere; but it is hard not to notice that Hallam's poem, as much as Tennyson's, invokes the discovery of a far-off paradise, a "long-lost Atlantis," (7) but only Hallam's refers the search to the brave voyage of Columbus:
   Years lapsed in silence, and that holy ground
      Was still an Eden, shut from sight; and few
      Brave souls in its idea solace found.
   In the last days a man arose, who knew
      That ancient legend from his infancy.
      Yea, visions on that child's enmarvailed view
   Had flashed intuitive science. (ll. 37-43)


Others' hostility and advancing years "never quenched his faith" (l. 48):
        to that faith he added search, and still
      As fevering with fond love of th' unknown shore,
      From learning's fount he strove his thirst to fill.
   But always Nature seemed to meet the power
      Of his high mind, to aid, and to reward
      His reverent hope with her sublimest lore.
   Each sentiment that burned; each falsehood warred
      Against and slain; each novel truth inwrought--
      What were they but the living lamps that starred
   His transit o'er the tremulous gloom of Thought?

   Last came the joy, when that phantasmal scene
     Lay in full glory round his outward sense.

(ll. 49-65, Writings, pp. 39-40)


But "others trod his path: and much was wrought / In the new land that made the angels weep" (ll. 70-71). Despite Columbus' vindication, Hallam wishes Timbuctoo's fairy city might never see ordinary daylight. He relocates his own hope in an aging mental mariner of the time--"Methought I saw a face whose every line / Wore the pale cast of Thought" (ll. 160-161). His note salutes the Hamlet-like elder as Coleridge, whom preceding annotation links to Columbus:

These lines ["Timbuctoo," 11.52-54, quoted above] were suggested to me by the following passage in Mr. Coleridge's Friend [18181 (iii.190): "It cannot be deemed alien from the purposes of this disquisition, if we are anxious to attract the attention of our readers to the importance of this speculative meditation, even for the worldly interests of mankind; and to that concurrence of nature and historic event with the great revolutionary movements of individual genius...." Mr. Coleridge proceeds to illustrate this by the very example of Columbus, and quotes some ... applicable verses of Chiabrera. (Hallam, Writings, p. 39)

Englished, Chiabrera's relevant verses are:
   Certainly by the heart, which high Destiny chose not,
   Magnanimous enterprises are neglected;
   But fine souls chosen for fine deeds
   Know how to rejoice in lofty work;
   Nor does popular blame, frail chain,
   Hold in check the spirit of honour.

   But through the unknown waves of the sea
   The unconquerable prow he drove on to the end.
   Just as a man, returning to his gentle wife,
   So he, from his home, spread his wings;

   Then, when the war of the broad sea was o'er,
   He perceived before him the fabulous Land.
   Then from his hollow Ship he quickly descends
   And imprints the new world with a great Footstep. (8)


One small step for a man, one giant step for mankind.

Columbus' mighty footprint re-plants--or foot-plant reprints--Hercules', as Lucian's traveler and mock-historian found it at ancient journeying's limits (True History, 1.7). "[L]ofty work," "frail chain," and nautical wingspread prove recurrent Columbian motifs. And Columbus' "unconquerable prow" suggests Ulysses' determination to prevail against odds-"strong in will / To strive ... and not to yield" (ll. 69-70)--who would "smite / The sounding furrows" (ll. 58-59), "To follow knowledge like a sinking star" (l. 31). Thus our thesis: Tennyson's hero was once not only Homer's seafarer and Dante's adventurer, but also Hallam's Columbus, who "knew / That ancient legend" (of a Ulyssean voyage far into the west) "from his infancy." Hallam's "Timbuctoo" knows Chiabrera's "Columbus"; Hallam's Columbus knew Dante's Ulysses; Tennyson's "Ulysses" knows all three.

"[T]he one master notion" of Hallam's hero--an immense idea "Too dimly seen," yet star-led by the lamps of others' researches-the notion "Which brooded ever o'er the passionate sea / Of his deep soul" (ll. 60, 61-62), was that of a western sea-route from Europe to India; the actual trans-Atlantic voyage only realized its foreconceit, given "His transit o'er the tremulous gloom of Thought" (l. 58). Chiabrera's poem, taken with Hallam's use of it for voyaging as much mental as physical, anticipates the monologue of Tennyson's legendary sailor, dreaming of travel that seeks and finds "a newer world" (l. 57), long after the New World had itself been found. "There gloom the dark broad seas" (l. 45), says this mindful Ulysses, inviting an eventide voyage "beyond the sunset" (l. 60): on seas of thought far past Dante's sailors' estranged Mediterranean.

Columbus hoped to reach the island kingdom of Cipango. The notion of sailing west to the Orient in the sun's wake is recognized as late as Joyce's Ulysses: Leopold Bloom's books include In the Track of the Sun, (9) a library equipped with travel books being the natural haven for an armchair mariner. An essay that Andrew Wilson wrote for Blackwood's in 1861, "The Inland Sea of Japan," quotes "Ulysses" ("It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles"), and then adds, "when our spirits shall float into the serenity of other airs than those we breathe on earth; but he who has visited the country of the 'Sun's Origin' has already had a foretaste of what they may be." (10)

2. "There lies the port": Reading "Ulysses" as an Armchair, Post-Columbian Columbiad

The contemporaneity of Ulysses' rhetorical invitation, "There lies the port" (l. 44), appears in the inscription on Senator Thomas Hart Benton's statue in St. Louis: "There is the East; there lies the road to India," a quotation from a speech (his daughter reports) to the Senate in 1825, supporting the United States' military occupation of Oregon. (11) The traffic would employ the Columbia River (named after its American explorer's ship); its capital would be the hopefully designated Portland. "Ulysses," Benton could say, "my shipmate."

Between Odysseus' travels and Columbus' discoveries came Ulysses' fictional voyage in Dante, which braves the Pillars of Hercules-there, so to speak, lay Portugal. But Tennyson's traveler-narrator, T. S. Eliot and Hugh Kenner insist, does not really get anywhere; he is all prologue and epilogue. Kenner quotes Eliot on the poem: "For narrative Tennyson had no gift at all"--in conspicuous contrast to Tennyson's source in Inferno, 26. (12) Yet it is Ulysses himself, not his creator, who wants the talent in question. He compensates with his gift for a rhetoric of promises and reflections, Odysseus' original bag of wind, so to speak. His audience must take up the slack, and fill his sail--his traveler's affect--with narratives of voyages less mental, or gap-filling allusions to actual marine adventures.

Tennyson's speaker, Goldwin Smith opines in 1855, "intends to roam, but stands for ever a listless and melancholy figure on the shore." (13) James Russell Lowell's "Columbus" might take him to task--his monologuist is well underway ("The cordage creaks, and rattles in the wind"), possibly within a day of landfall in the New World. He already projects a non-European polity arising from the new land it is destined he reveal. This calling from God must not lie unfulfilled: (14) "Westward still points the inexorable soul" (LPW, p. 59). Columbus' project engages texts absorbed in youth--Dante's possible inspiration in Seneca's prophetic chorus in Medea:
   Then did I entertain the poet's song,
   My great Idea's guest, and passing o'er
   That iron bridge the Tuscan built to hell,
   I heard Ulysses tell of mountain-chains
   Whose adamantine links, his manacles,
   The western main shook growling, and still gnawed.

   And I believed the poets. (LPW, p. 59)


Again we hear of chains-as would Columbus.

Divinely led by expectations of vindication-with anticipations of the United States itself-Columbus shares love's heroic ardor for overcoming obstacles, overstepping Gibraltar, and outdistancing volcanic islands and misty mirages beyond it, to bring the outer darkness into new light:
   Thus ever seems it when my soul can hear
   The voice that errs not; then my triumph gleams
   O'er the blank ocean beckoning, and all night
   My heart flies on before me as I sail;
   Far on I see my lifelong enterprise,

   I see the ungated wall of chaos old,
   With blocks Cyclopean hewn of solid night,
   Fade like a wreath of unreturning mist
   Before irreversible feet of light;--
   And lo, with what clear omen in the east
   On day's gray threshold stands the eager dawn,
   Like young Leander rosy from the sea
   Glowing at Hero's lattice! (LPW, p. 60)


Verging on greatness, he prays his "one frail bark" not be lost at sea-for lack of "One poor day":
   Remember whose and not how short it is!
   It is God's day, it is Columbus's.
   A lavish day! One day, with life and heart,
   Is more than time enough to find a world. (LPW, p. 60)


One can read gleam-following world-beaters more satanically: an obdurate rebel makes his way out of his own technologically advanced civilization and past forbidden gates, crossing an oceanic chaos to arrive at a sunlit new world and enslave a naked and naive race living there in a paradise of freedom and leisure. Milton anchors the darkness visible of this diabolical mission with three allusions to the Admiral. (15)

Despite echoes of early modern voyaging, "Ulysses" is also among Tennyson's self-designating "antiques." It ventriloquizes Virgil's Aeneas, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Ulysses, and Byron's Childe Harold, resulting in a dreamy, oratorical pastiche. Its "deep / Moans round with many voices" (ll. 55-56), Dante's Ulysses foremost among them:
      zeal I had
   To explore the world, and search the ways of life,

   To this the short remaining watch, that yet
   Our senses have to wake, refuse not proof

   Of the unpeopled world, following the track
   Of Phoebus.

   Ye were not form'd to live the life of brutes,
   But virtue to pursue and knowledge high. (16)


Compare Dante's lines to these from Tennyson's "Ulysses": "all experience is an arch where through / Gleams that untravelled world" (ll. 19-20); "desire / To follow knowledge like a sinking star" (ll. 30-31); "Some work of noble note, may yet be done ...' Tis not too late to seek a newer world" (ll. 52-57); "my purpose holds / To sail beyond the sunset.., until I die" (ll. 59-61). Dante-Cary's "[T]o ... search the ways of life" becomes Tennyson's "to seek a newer world." The senses' "short remaining watch" becomes the long life of which "Little remains" (l. 26) (yet "much abides" [1. 65]). But after 1492 Dante-Cary's "unpeopled world" must needs be peopled and Tennyson's "newer world" (l. 57) imply the Mondo Nuovo revealed by il signor don Cristoforo Colombo, as Marco Polo's publisher Ramusio has it. (17)

It is Columbus--treated by near-contemporaries as a second Ulysses--who haunts the searchings and Atlantis-yearnings of Tennyson's "Timbuctoo" secretly; there Gibraltar's "pillars high" are the limits defied by Dante's post-Homeric voyager and breached by history's post-Dantean dreamer, Cristoforo Colon:
   I gazed upon the sheeny coast beyond,
   There where the Giant of old Time infixed
   The limits of his prowess, pillars high
   Long time erased from Earth:...

   And much I mused on legends quaint and old

   Divinest Atalantis, whom the waves
   Have buried deep, and thou of later name
   Imperial Eldorado roofed with gold:
   Shadows to which, despite all shocks of Change,

   Men clung with yearning Hope which would not die.

      Where are ye
   Thrones of the Western wave, fair Islands green?

("Timbuctoo," ll. 10-41)


The disenchanting encroachments of "Discovery" on Imagination at the end of the poem confirm these evanescent islands lie enthroned in Washington Irving's Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. (18)

Poems Tennyson wrote in the great efflorescence around the time of "Ulysses"--"The Lotos-Eaters," "The Hesperides," and "Anacaona"--pursue the Columbian-paradisal telos of western voyaging insistently. Thus "The Lotos-Eaters" begins:
   'Courage!' he said, and pointed toward the land,
   'This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.' (ll. 1-2)


This injunction and the need for it lack counterparts in the Lotos-eaters episode in Homer. The encouragement may come from Columbus' dealings with his refractory crew, before the nocturnal sighting of the land-betokening gleam. "This mounting wave," meant to hearten Tennyson's mariners, suggests a shipboard episode just before Columbus' arrival in America:

Columbus continued, with admirable patience, to reason with [his fellows'] absurd fancies [spellbound waves], but in vain; when fortunately there came on a heavy swell of the sea, unaccompanied by wind, a phenomenon that often occurs in the broad ocean, caused by the impulse of some past gale, or distant current of wind. It was, nevertheless, regarded with astonishment by the mariners, and dispelled the imaginary terrors occasioned by the calm. (Irving, abrdgmnt., pp. 66-67)

We may also compare Emily Dickinson's Noachic situation, where she puns on ark and Patriarch, and bilingually on Colon's adopted name:
   Once more, my now bewildered Dove
   Bestirs her puzzled wings
   Once more her mistress, on the deep
   Her troubled question flings--

   Thrice to the floating casement
   The Patriarch's bird returned,
   Courage! My brave Columba!
   There may yet be Land. (19)


In Tennyson's "The Two Voices," an encouraging speaker rebukes a despairing counterpart:
   'Moreover, something is or seems,
   That touches me with mystic gleams,
   Like glimpses of forgotten dreams-'Of
   something felt, like something here;
   Of something done, I know not where;

      ... thou ... hast missed thy mark,
   Who sought'st to wreck my mortal ark,
   By making all the horizon dark. (ll. 379-390)


"Death closes ail" (l. 51), Ulysses resignedly concedes, while wishing to approach a horizon-like gleam whereafter lies an "untravelled world" (l. 20), deathly bourne of Hamlet's most famous soliloquy. "It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles," speculates Tennyson's persona, recalling a line in Cowley's "The Ecstasie," whose raptus aspires "to touch at last the spangled Sphaere" in the wake of ecstatic Paul--"the great[er] Worlds Columbus," translated to the third heaven. (20)

Ulysses represents himself as "this gray spirit yearning in desire" (l.30), longing to put out to sea. "[V]ile it were," he avers, "For some three suns to store and hoard myself" (l. 29), echoing his scorn of local landlubbers "That hoard, and sleep, and feed" (l. 5). But what land-lubbing of his own might he renounce? If we take "some three suns" to mean as many solar years, and Columbus as the aging "spirit," the lines--not readily referenced to either Homer's mariner or Dante's--become explicable as an archaeological remnant preserving an earlier monologue spoken by the Admiral. Columbus' fourth and last voyage ended November 7, 1504; he was about 68 years old, Irving reports. He died on May 20, 1506, the third year after.

In those last years, however, he continued to propose further projects to his patrons:

Columbus urged his suit in form; reminding the King of all that he had done, and all that had been promised him under the royal word and seal, and supplicating that the restitutions and indemnifications which had been so frequently solicited, might be awarded to him; offering in return to serve his Majesty devotedly for the short time he had yet to live; and trusting, from what he felt within him, and from what he thought he knew with certainty, to render services which should surpass all that he had yet performed a hundred-fold. (Irving, 2:448)

This offer was repeated to Isabella's successors in Castile: "he would yet be able to render them services, the like of which had never been witnessed" (2:448). Reading "New World" for "new things," he might have said:
      of one [life] to me
   Little remains: but every hour is saved
   From that eternal silence, something more,
   A bringer of new things. ("Ulysses," 11. 25-28)

   Though much is taken, much abides; and though
   We are not now that strength which in old days
   Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are. (ll. 65-67)


--Namely Admiral of the Ocean Sea, the title the Discoverer deemed inalienable.

Yet Colon was not Colon, but Columbus--such identities are never a given, but always achievements, like Don Quixote's. They must be maintained stedfastly: "Age was rapidly making its advances upon Columbus, when he undertook his fourth voyage of discovery.... His intellectual powers alone retained their wonted energy, prompting him, at a period of life when most men seek repose, to sally forth, with youthful ardour, on the most toilsome and adventurous of enterprises.... About sixty-six years old ... Columbus sailed from Cadiz" (Irving, abrdgmnt., p. 278).

If "Ulysses" re-imagines Irving's Columbus, then Tennyson's much later poem "Columbus" (1880) must inevitably, albeit subtextually, re-write "Ulysses." Grievance-ridden, broken-hearted, slighted, and alien, the Genovese had nonetheless experienced the "glimmering of God's hand"--on him God had surely "more than glimmered" (ll. 141-142). His accent and ambition are recurrently Ulyssean: "I shall hear [God's] voice again ... I am not yet too old to work his will" (ll. 156-158); "you will tell the King, that I ... Am ready to sail forth on one last voyage / And readier ... to lead / One last crusade" (ll. 230-235). But the speaker cannot finally deny his decrepitude and that he is old (l. 237). At age seventy Tennyson himself had caught up with his previous aging mariner. As he wrote, even later in life (1889), to the globe-trotting W. G. Palgrave in Montevideo, when thanking him for Palgrave's own volume of essays called, it so happens, Ulysses:
   I, once half-crazed for larger light
   On broader zones beyond the foam,
   But chaining fancy now at home
   Among the quarried downs of Wight
   Not less would yield. ("To Ulysses," ll. 29-33)


Yield thanks, he goes on to say; but he might also have meant, late in the forelengthening Tennysoniad of his life, yield deference to the bounds of ordinance and shackles of infirmity.

3. The Colonial-Britannic Ulysses
      "This is my son, ...
   To whom I leave the sceptre." ("Ulysses," ll. 33-34)


Although the above bequeathal could possibly be deduced from Dante's speaker, it is not one the denizen of hell is positioned to make at all--in the dead world, Telemachus is only named as someone Ulysses had abandoned, not appointed. The designation of his successor in "Ulysses" is more readily referred to Columbus' last-ditch attempt to endow his son Diego (and subsequent heirs) with the titles and endowments originally promised them by the crown. Not so adventurous as his father, nor so worldly and enterprising as his natural half-brother Fernando, the priestly Diego was nonetheless reliable and the legal heir.

Ulysses' expressed contempt for his countrymen, as opposed to faith in his shipmates, is a colonialist's paradox. Columbus had such mixed feelings, if we divide his experience of men into the loyalists who recognized the greatness of their leader to the end, and those who became his detractors, betrayers, and unruly rivals (those who "know not me" ["Ulysses," 1. 5]). Also relevant is the contrast between latter-day conquistadors and native populations ("a savage race") under their thumb, to whom the new rulers must "mete and dole / Unequal laws" (ll. 3-4): meting out punishments and exactions with one hand, and doling out allowances, tenancies, and permissions with the other. For natives and colonials the laws were unequal.

Telemachus is likewise characterized as a colonial administrator who has his job cut out for him:
      discerning to fulfil
   This labour, by slow prudence make mild
   A rugged people, and through soft degrees
   Subdue them to the useful and the good. (ll. 35-38)


Homer's Odysseus reports to the Phaeacians that Ithaca is a rugged land (Odyssey, 9.27) and subsequently notes the lack of ship-building among the Cyclopes (9.125-126), the lack of exposure to the outside world, the dearth of colonists, and the unused land available for plowing and viniculture. The commissioning of Telemachus as Ulysses' resident replacement can contemplate the chartering of a colonial plantation.

Thus the double motion in "Ulysses." The speaker would escape the responsibilities of local government, but these are ambiguously located both at home and abroad-at home in the "Hellas" of Homer's Ithaca, or on the safer shores of Tennyson's England, and abroad on the wilder shores of Columbus' Hispaniola or England's "Indies"-indeed any outlying protectorate: Ithaca itself, with other Ionian islands, had recently become a British one (Treaty of Paris, 1815). Thus Ulysses "sounds, in fact, like a colonial administrator turning over the reins to a successor just before stepping on the boat to go home," while he also sounds like an official in the home office "chafing at domestic routine, and planning one last voyage to escape it." (21) Ithaca occupies a western margin that Ulysses himself identifies with, yet Telemachus is assigned the pivotal role there, "centered in the sphere / Of common duties" (ll. 39-40). His could be a colonial capital: one preserving and promoting outmoded forms in outposts of progress among babu-locals. The capital is always older than its colonies, but the colony's culture is always "dated," "dowdy," and "provincial," compared to an empire's capital: one an urbane Ulysses, the other a stodgy Telemachus.

As Tennyson wrote "Ulysses" and "Tithon," the East India Company was transforming itself into the British Empire's crown-jewel, and English sahibs were roaming and researching the far-from-vacant spaces of the Orient--and penetrating to the sources of the Congo, the Niger, and the Nile. If the diptych voices the plight of the retired colonialist stuck at home while dreaming of past glories abroad, and the exiled colonialist stuck in some god-forsaken place abroad while dreaming of a happy retirement to the scenes of his youth in the old country-where it would always be his April--then "The long day wanes" (1. 55) may also predict the gradual and mournful demise of the British Empire over the course of the two centuries since "Ulysses" was written.

The dual situation conjures up that of the highly civilized Sir Stamford Raffles and agents of the East India Company contesting Southeast Asian supremacy with the Dutch. Stuck in a deadly Far-Eastern post, Raffles explored the maps for possible ports and trading centers, determined upon a promising island-harbor, negotiated with an exiled local claimant for rights, and founded the British free port Singapore. Though he spent less than a year in residence, and died in debt and broken health after return to London, the flourishing colony derived its street-plan, districts, organization, government, and institutions from two visits' worth of his administration. His viceroy, Chief Resident Sir William Farquhar, learned Malay and took a native wife, and Raffles, returning from his other Far-Eastern post, dismissed him for mismanagement. Farquhar was never able to clear his name, or return to the East, as he longed to do. "Ulysses" holds both English and foreign poles of such careers in counterbalance: the stern but Ulyssean Raffles, the scapegrace but Telemachian Farquhar. Each official, consequently, also pre-embodied "Tithon."

Bringing the world within the pale of British civilization--"work of noble note" (1. 52)--would not typically mean the speaker intends to go abroad and "take some some savage woman, [who] shall rear [his] dusky race" ("Locksley Hall," 1. 168), for what would Mrs. Grundy say? But Ulysses seems to list "this still hearth ... these barren crags ... an aged wife" (ll. 2-3) more or less appositively-apparently tired of his spouse, he may well be contemplating the innocent and Edenic tropics, where he can increase and multiply as "in the beginning," and find renewal in the "baths / Of all the western stars" (ll. 60-61)--a la the rejuvenating ablutions Athena provided Odysseus--in contrast to "Meet adoration of ... household gods" (l. 42), the deadening routines of Victorian piety satirized in Butler's antipodean fantasy Erewhon as the worship of Ydgrun.

There was a succession of heirs like Telemachus in places like Calcutta and Singapore and the West Indies, and Ithaca itself, and their operations were endorsed by a series of English apologists from Edmund Spenser and Captain John Smith to John Stuart Mill, in whose discourses civility and savagery serve as euphemistic codewords for the colonial policy of taking possession: occupation, subjugation, pacification, conversion, and administrative hegemony. Mill's Considerations on Representative Government might argue that an enlightened despotism abroad is indeed a positive, paternal responsibility of the foreign occupier in the service of the crown, (22) for "despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement." (23) But Mill also argues for much self-government in the colonies, and the situation in India weighs heavily on his discourse. Edmund Spenser had argued that the civilizing of the Irish could model itself on the previous refinement of the English themselves. (24) With the view that "natives of the Ionian islands" were a lesser breed, simply not up to historical snuff, Mill respectfully disagreed. (25)

An empire extending itself both politically and culturally is the burden of Tennyson's cautiously jingoistic "Hall Briton!" The powerful nation is saluted
   Not for a power, that knows not check,
      To spread and float an ermined pall
      Of Empire from the ruined wall
   Of royal Delhi to Quebec. (ll. 9-12) (26)


--but rather for the promulgation of scientific and technical accomplishments possible for its race: "Who loves not knowledge? ... Who shall fix / Her pillars? Let her work prevail" (ll. 133-136).

These boundaries were fixed by Hercules, disregarded by Dante's figure for dangerous intelligence, and erased by the actual historical personage who began transforming the ancient mappa mundi into the modern atlas.

4. Beyond the Pillars of Ignorance and the Known World
   Guard the apple night and day,
   Lest one from the East come and take it away.

(Tennyson, "The Hesperides," ll. 41-42; publ. 1832)

   To satisfy the sharp desire I had
   Of tasting those fair Apples, I resolv'd
   Not to defer.

(The Tempter or Snake, in Paradise Lost, 9.584-585; my italics)

   Would I could pile fresh life on life, and dull
   The sharp desire of knowledge still with knowing!

(Tennyson, "Life," ll. 5-6; c. 1832; my italics)


Tennyson's Ulysses would "follow knowledge like a sinking star, / Beyond the utmost bound of human thought" (ll. 31-32). The hesperian and somewhat vespertine "utmost bound of human thought" was originally, and much more literally, the "ultima Thule" of geography, not philosophy; it is not found so much in Dante, as in the prediction of the chorus in Seneca's Medea, 375-379:
   There will come an age in the far-off years when Ocean shall
   unloose the bonds of things, when the whole broad earth shall be
   revealed, when Tithys shall disclose new worlds [novos ... orbes]
   and Thule not be the limit of the lands [nec sit terris ultima
   Thule]. (27)


The Latin is the epigraph for Irving's weighty Life and Voyages, and its chains surely inspired Columbus' own report of his dream in extremity, when stranded and helpless on the shores of Varugua, in the midst of his third voyage, God's own voice addressed the dreamer, who had, like Ulysses, "become a name"--his self-chosen one--while acquiring an ungainsayable fame:

"'When he [God] saw thee of a fitting age, he made thy name to resound marvellously throughout the earth, and thou wert obeyed in many lands, and didst acquire honorable fame among Christians. Of the gates of the Ocean Sea, shut up with such mighty chains, he [God] delivered thee the keys; the Indies, those wealthy regions of the world, he gave thee for thine own, and empowered thee to dispose of them to others, according to thy pleasure.'" (Irving, 2:348)

In Tennyson's (or God's) own words, in "Columbus" (1880), "Have I not ... Given thee the keys of the great Ocean-sea? ... The Atlantic sea.... unchained for all the world to come" (ll. 146-211).

Seneca's chorus anticipates British empire and global village:

Now, in our time, the deep has ceased resistance and submits utterly to law; no famous Argo, framed by a Pallas' hand, with princes to man its oars, is sought for; any little craft now wanders at will upon the deep. All bounds (terminus omnis) have been removed, cities have set their walls in new lands, and the world, now passable throughout, has left nothing where it once had place: the Indian drinks of the cold Araxes, the Persians quaff the Elbe and the Rhine. (Medea, 364-374; Miller trans., pp. 259, 261)

Virgil's Messianic eclogue merely predicts that "there will be ... a second Argo to convey chosen heroes" (Eclogues, 4.34-35), but its overall prophecy might attach to virtually any new dispensation.

Bacon's Novum Organon (New Organon) moralizes the ancients' lack of experience of the world as a whole, in contrast to post-Columbian and increasingly globalized contemporaries:
   For at that period there was but a narrow and meager knowledge
   either of time or place, which is the worst thing that can be,
   especially for those who rest all on experience.... Much less were
   [the ancients] acquainted with the provinces of the New World, even
   by hearsay or any well-founded rumor; nay, a multitude of climates
   and zones, wherein innumerable nations breathe and live, were
   pronounced by them to be uninhabitable.... In our times, on the
   other hand, both many parts of the New World and the limits on
   every side of the Old World are known, and our stock of experience
   has increased to an infinite amount. (28)


Ulysses "cannot rest from travel" (l. 6), while Bacon memorably characterizes human understanding's possession by an agitation deriving "from the ... inability of thought to stop":

The human understanding is unquiet; it cannot stop or rest, and still presses onward, but in vain. Therefore it is that we cannot conceive of any end or limit to the world, but always as of necessity it occurs to us that there is something beyond. (New Organon, 1.48; p. 51)

Bacon's "something beyond" is a governing concept for "Ulysses."

The breach in "beyonditude" has its Classical latitude and longitude in Dante:
      Tardy with age
   Were I and my companions, when we came
   To the strait pass, where Hercules ordain'd
   The boundaries not to be o'erstepp'd by man.
   (Cary trans., p. 181)


Tennyson's fearless Ulysses apparently intends to cross these boundaries at the risk of the fate overtaking his drowned prototype: "It may be that the gulfs will wash us down" (l. 62). (29)

The Dantean gates are closed by divine interdiction; for the original sin, as we learn from Adam in Paradiso, 26.117, consisted in going beyond (trapassar) a segna or boundary-marker; the overview from Dante's eighth heaven associates that segna with a last view of Ulysses' voyage into the Atlantic (Paradiso, 27.82-84 with segno in Inferno, 26.108). (30) But the infinitude-denying "ne" of "ne plus ultra" is eliminated from Spain's coat of arms, which, from the time of Charles V, shows the Pillars of Hercules, labeled "plus ultra" ("further beyond"). Tennyson is likelier to have known the title-page of the Novum Organum showing a ship sailing past those same pillars; moreover, another ship is shown already reaching the horizon. Inside the book, geographical knowledge had advanced so much that Bacon can speculate that the Atlantic Ocean's shores are congruent, being the separated seam of a single land-mass. Without knowing it, Columbus had rejoined a world divided at creation (Novum Organum, 2.27).

He had also become proverbial for transcending earlier limitations: Giambatista Manso, patron and biographer of Tasso, wrote to Galileo (March 18, 1610) about his disclosure in the Sidereus Nuncius of "new heavens," and his having made of them a "new Atlantic," as if he were a "new Columbus." These figures for Galileo are also found in Kepler and Campanella. (31) In Marino's L'Adone, (32) Mercury prophetically celebrates Galileo as a second Columbus-or argonautical voyager under new heavens-with telescope for compass:
   "Cleaving the breast of the ocean, vast and deep,
   but not without grave peril and bitter strife,
   Liguria's Argonaut down on the earth
   will yet discover a new land and sky.
   Thou, second Typhis, (33) not of sea but heaven,
   searching how wide it circles, what it holds,
   thyself will e'en discover without risk
   new stars and lights once hidden to all men." (Canto 10, 1. 45; p.
      19)


In sum, in a succession of metaphorizations, Ulysses was characterized as a New Argonaut or New Tiphys (the Argo's pilot), Columbus hailed as a new Ulysses, and Galileo congratulated as a new Columbus. When Keats, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," compares himself to the Spanish discoverer of the Pacific and the astronomer discerning a new planet-like Herschel-he lines up the same figures as L'Adone. (34)

Tennyson's Ulysses, insofar as he was originally Dante's, is intent upon becoming a second Argonaut and a new Ulysses. But given the notion of Columbus (or Oviedo, Vespucci, Balboa) as a modern Ulysses, one can also treat Ulysses as an ancient Columbus--or retrojected one-and moreover argue that Tennyson's Columbus, found in the later poem titled with the resonant name, presents a Ulysses disenchanted and enchained: antiquated and embittered in the latter day by his reception and confinement at home.

Although Tennyson's character has professed purposes of acquiring experience and expanding knowledge, the satisfaction of his curiosity seems more of a will-o'-the-wisp than in Dante, and the knowledge more conjectural:
      all experience is an arch wherethrough
   Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
   For ever and for ever when I move. (ll. 19-21)


Irving's Columbus, "in search of the imaginary strait" realized as the Panama Canal, "had been in pursuit of a mere chimera, but it was the chimera of a splendid imagination and penetrating judgment" (abrdgmnt., pp. 286, 287). Tennyson's Ulysses, however, guesses that expanding knowledge also increases the amount of ignorance.

The horizon's retrogression beyond the rainbow-like arch at the end of the known world, taken with the speculation "It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles" (1.63), engages with Irving's treatment "Of the Situation of the Terrestrial Paradise." Speculation's natural, regressive goal, the Hesperidean site was successively re-determined by the expansion of geographical knowledge:
   The speculations concerning the situation of the garden of Eden
   resemble those of the Greeks concerning the garden of the
   Hesperides; that region of delight, which they for ever placed at
   the most remote verge of the known world; which their poets
   embellished with all the charms of fiction; after which they were
   continually longing, and which they could never find.... [F]rom its
   being thus isolated in the midst of an ocean of sand [as an oasis
   in Arabia], they gave it the name of the Island of the Blessed. As
   geographical knowledge increased, the situation of the Hesperian
   gardens was continually removed to a greater distance.... In this
   way the happy region of the ancients was transported from place to
   place, still in the remote and obscure extremity of the world,
   until it was fabled to exist in the Canaries, thence called the
   Fortunate Isles or the Hesperian Islands. Here it remained, because
   discovery advanced no farther, and because these islands were so
   distant, and so little known, as to allow full latitude to the
   fictions of the poet. (35)


Not infinitely reserved beyond the horizon and the present, Tennyson's Timbuctoo, raised as an ideal, star-like vision, must fall into Timbuctoo as an earthy, sordid reality:
   Oh City! oh latest Throne! Where I was raised
   To be a mystery of loveliness
   Unto all eyes, the time is well-nigh come
   When I must render up this glorious home
   To keen Discovery: soon yon brilliant towers
   Shall darken with the waving of her wand;
   Darken, and shrink and shiver into huts. (ll. 236-242)


In Irving's words, "the mystery and conjectural charm which reigned over the greatest part of the world" had been "completely dispelled by modern discovery" (2:463). For Timbuctoo's "Low-built, mud-walled, Barbarian settlements" (1. 244), Ricks (1:198) refers us to Irving, describing the Portuguese project initiated by Henry the Navigator: "The miserable hordes of the African coast were magnified into powerful nations, and the voyager continually heard of opulent countries farther on. It was as yet the twilight of geographic knowledge; imagination went hand in hand with discovery"; the former "peopled all beyond with wonders," while the latter "groped its slow and cautious way" (I.iii, vol. 1, p. 24). (36)

Dialectically entailed in Irving, Imagination and Discovery are also diametrically opposed. The "Zidonian Hanno" of the first line of Tennyson's "Hesperides," "sailing from Gibraltar with a fleet of sixty ships and following the African coast, was said to have reached the shores of Arabia" (Irving I.iii, 1:20), but "Discovery advanced slowly along the coasts of Africa, and the mariners feared to cruise far into the southern hemisphere, with the stars of which they were totally unacquainted":

To such men, the project of a voyage directly westward, into the midst of that boundless waste, to seek some visionary land, appeared as extravagant as it would be at the present day to launch forth in a balloon into the regions of space, in quest of some distant star.

The time, however, was at hand that was to extend the sphere of navigation. The recent art of printing enabled men to communicate rapidly and extensively their ideas and discoveries.... There was, henceforth, to be no retrogression in knowledge, nor any pause in its career. (Irving, I.vi; 1:43-44)

In his Inferno translation (1865) Longfellow ends his comment on Canto 27 with the final, "heroic" chunk of Tennyson's "Ulysses," and annotates Ulysses' lines in Inferno 26.127-129. ("all the stars of the other pole / I saw at night; and ours above the deep / did not ever rise from the sea") with a like report--of the alienation of northern-based travelers by southern seas-from the world-traveler Humboldt, whom Irving had climactically cited on Columbus' "ultimate success" being a "conquest of reflection": (37)
   We see those stars, which we have contemplated from our infancy,
   progressively sink, and finally disappear. Nothing awakens in the
   traveller a livelier remembrance of the immense distance by which
   he is separated from his country, than the aspect of an unknown
   firmament.... [H]e feels he is not in Europe, when he sees the
   immense constellation of the Ship or the phosphorescent clouds of
   Magellan, arise on the horizon. (38)


In other words, Tennyson's "baths / Of all the western stars" and "knowledge like a sinking star" (ll. 60-61, 31) recall reports from Western navigators at the end of the fourteenth century. Longfellow implies Ulysses' voyage is wondrous, rather than originally sinful. After all, the Commedia's last Classical comparison equates the pilgrim's own astronautic transcendence of terrestrial limitations to Jason's primal venture (Paradiso, 33.88-92). But Tennyson's Ulysses' flight is merely contemplated, as if confessing an impasse or inhibition: he may fail to embark, because hesitating Imagination would avoid disenchantment by mundane Discovery.

Discovery culminated in the British Navigator, Captain Cook: "he left nothing unattempted"; the Endeavour and Resolution were his first and last ships. But on the eve of 1833 Discovery's next great manifestation was a-sail in the Straits of Magellan on the Beagle. (39) Tennyson can hardly know that, but his adventurer has a trans-Atlantic shipmate in Joel Barlow's Columbiad (1807), where the Admiral is given an enlightening, Pisgah vision of a newer (and un-Spanish) world, like the one originally afforded Camoens' da Gama in the last two books of the Lusiads. (40) The guardian angel and tutelary genius Hesper shows the edges of the other great ocean to Barlow's Columbus, who thereupon pleads to be allowed to follow its tide through the Straits of Magellan to "the spreading way / That gleams far westward to an unknown sea." "His ancient wishes reabsorb'd his soul":
   There spreads, belike, that other unsail'd main
   I sought so long, and sought alas in vain,
   To gird this watery globe, and bring to light
   Old India's coast and regions wrapt in night.

   Ah grant me still, their passage to prepare,
   One venturous bark, and be my life thy care.
   So pray'd the Hero; Hesper mild replies,
   Divine compassion softening in his eyes:
   Tho still to virtuous deeds thy mind aspires,
   And these glad visions kindle new desires,
   Yet hear with reverence what attends thy state,
   Nor wish to pass the eternal bounds of fate.

(1.441-474; Works, 1:434-435)


Ne plus ultra--or, the answer is no. His "goal of ordinance" ("Tithon," 1. 22) has been fatally set, in Dante's idiom, "as Another wished" (Inferno, 26.140).

But was there a more home-bred Ulyssean Discoverer within the narrower literary ken of the British poet in 1833? Robert Southey's reconstructed epic Madoc answers in the affirmative, by recasting Columbus as a Celt: a pre-Columbian voyager finding the New World before any Iberians or Italians--or Anglo-Saxons--were in it. Southey's fugitive and mythical Welsh prince, on the high seas like Columbus, must deal with mutinous mates who accuse him of having "offended God"--as "When man's presumptuous folly strove to pass/The fated limits of the world" (Madoc in Wales, 4.768-769 [1806]). The path is that taken by Ulyssean folly, the folle varco seen by Dante's segna-transgressing Adam; the voyage likewise braves the whirlpool of the Atlantic, "The insuperable boundary, raised to guard" Chaos' apparent "Sanctuary" and keep "Its mysteries from the eye of man profane" (4.861-864).

5. "Something modern about it": The Post-Medieval History of Dante's Ulysses, and the Virtues Discovered in His Voyager

To seeke new worlds, for golde, for prayse, for glory.

--Sir Walter Raleigh, The Ocean to Cynthia, 1. 61

The truth that the earth, because it is a sphere, is navigable in a great circle, and that "the East" is to be reached by sailing west with the Spaniards and Captain Cook as well as by sailing east with the Portuguese, emerged gradually from Mandeville on, but Columbus' voyage was the critical first step in its empirical proof. Irving's account of the Admiral's accomplishment would warm Ulysses' heroic heart. (41) That Irving's mariner adumbrates Tennyson's is complicated by a brilliant ditty the poet wrote shortly before "Ulysses," namely "Anacaona," an Irving-inspired idyl about a happy tropical isle, Haiti, whose delightful and accomplished princess the Spanish invaders ultimately enchained and hung, on patently false charges. Averting his gaze from this horror, Tennyson merely indicates that Anacaona's paradisal life ends with the white man's arrival. (42)

Ulysses' project is cast in the mold of the Renaissance and its Age of Exploration--or the trans-oceanic expansion of England by adventurers from Raleigh to Cook. Only much later in life did Tennyson write "Columbus," but the connection to "Ulysses" is unmistakable-Ulysses' utterance comports eerily with Tennyson's post-Dantean mariner's speech. Tennyson reports he wrote "Ulysses" ten days after learning of Hallam's death; this seems implausible, unless he had the essence already in hand. If it was a draft on Dante's explorer rescripted as Columbus, then "I am become a name" acknowledges an alteration of title, to re-effect the transmutation of the poem's subject--back to Dante's. Telemachus for Diego, Achilles for the Great Khan had to be substituted afterwards. Tennyson's hero, like Homer's, has "drunk delight of battle with [his] peers" (1. 16); but Columbus had known battle too: he fought against the Moors, especially at Malaga, where he made his nearly delusionary vow to devote the gains of his planned voyage to finance a new crusade: he witnessed the fall of the Moors in Spain. He being another and quasi-Dantean Ulysses, Granada was another and quasi-Dantean Troy.

Though he inverts "the mythical method" T. S. Eliot identified in Joyce's Ulysses, Tennyson nonetheless discovered its bi-temporal technique, as he indicates regarding "Demeter and Persephone": "when I write an antique like this I must put it into a frame--something modern about it. It is no use giving a mere rechauffe of old legends." (43) Columbus supplies "Ulysses" with "something modern." If there is also something antique and legendary about such a frame, then joint stock companies of merchant adventurers can up-date it. The poem's verbal frame--its first and last utterance--implies that lack of industry, idleness, yields little profit to the crown, or a sovereign state; (44) and the supplementary "Tithon" enables us to specify, among profit-makers, the British East India Company.

"Columbus" haunts "Ulysses" as its deflationary, pessimistic post-cursor and subtextual shadow "Tithon" does--yet a "Columbus" seen as mythic foreconceit and archeological adumbration. Tennyson's source in Inferno, 26, invites reading "Ulysses" as a kind of Derridean supplement to Dante. Tennyson's "Columbus" offers analogous supplementation of "Ulysses" itself. (45) Glossing the latter with Irving's pre-echoing of its key sentiments-considering "Columbus" (which hews to Irving) as providing implicit commentary, external referent, or clarifying ur-text-makes good sense, if Tennyson recombined elements of the legendary Dantean-Homeric life-story with those of Columbus' biography. For the poem's particulars do not comform to Tennyson's "classical"authors altogether faithfully.

An administrator dealing with a brutish populace, Tennyson's Ithacan king is driven to rejoin a company of noble minds. Dante's speaker does not make this motion of withdrawal, but it certainly fits with Columbus in the New World, dealing with his own fractious adherants and disaffected colonists. In Irving's view, colonial administration was more or less forced on Columbus, when his real goal was not the establishment of colonies (as if named after his Colon, rather than his Cristoforo or Holy Savior or San Salvador); he sought penetration to the Orient-its trade and markets-in pursuit of a thesis and a dream. His search for gold was a quest for financial and royal support, especially for his project in the holy land, that of saving his Savior's sepulcher in the East.

Homer, Dante, and Tennyson might agree to have Ulysses say "Much have I seen and known," but Tennyson's addition "Myself not least" is hardly implied in Dante: in the Inferno genuine self-knowledge is in almost as short supply as hope. Irving implies that Columbus possessed self-control and knew his own nature sufficiently to consistently master innate, ireful tendencies. (46) Yet Irving's visionary knew himself only imperfectly and sometimes moved in a self-intoxicated dream, like the Ulysses who "strove with Gods" (1.54) and who "works his work" (1. 43) with an unyielding, quasi-Britannic devotion to a mission or campaign abroad. (47) Ulysses' self-knowledge seems unexplored when set beside his lack of self-doubt: a righteous, somewhat lordly consciousness of personal superiority--his long-term worth--among contemporaries. Homer's Athena is less Ulysses' tutelary spirit than is Barlow's Hesper.

To write his actual "Columbus," Tennyson capitalized on a striking figure for deliverance from the dream-audition at Veragua: disenchainment, which offered a dramatic contrast to Columbus clogged and shackled by his enemies. To commemorate his mistreatment by Spanish authorities, the Admiral retained his actual chains--a leading motif of Tennyson's soliloquy, as of Columbus' late years. (48) The chains showed rather differently in Columbus' dream prior to their hanging on his person, and thereafter in his closet. "Of the gates of the Ocean Sea, shut up with such mighty chains, he [God] delivered thee the keys" (Irving, abrdgmnt., p. 301). Columbus' planned memorial will inscribe a well-nigh messianic deliverer: "These same chains / Bound these same bones back through the Atlantic sea, / Which he unchained for all the world to come" (ll. 209-211).

Columbus had warned his mutinous men "it was useless to murmur; the expedition had been sent ... to seek the Indies, and happen what might, he was determined to persevere"-that is, to strive to seek, to find, and not to yield-"until ... he should accomplish the enterprise" (Irving, abrdgmnt., p. 69). For the dialectic of early "Ulysses" and late "Columbus" surely hangs on "yield." Ulysses' final determination is specified, in the Admiral's case, as a lifelong commitment to a life-consuming project:
   Our title, which we never mean to yield,
   Our guerdon not alone for what we did,
   But our amends for all we might have done
   The vast occasion of our stronger life. (ll. 32-35; italics added)


To yield is to give up an idea, lose the will to carry through world-changing enterprises, or surrender credit for their accomplishment. Not to yield is to retain the honor, title, reward, name, and acknowledgment for achievement. "We are become a name": the Admiral. Henceforward, "that which we are, we are."

Given the Dantean precedent, Ulysses' speech invites his followers to transgress: but mainly to transgress personal limitations. He offers no inducements to sin and be damned with an operator like Guido da Montefeltro--rather to honor virtue, transcend impediments, and be praised by an orator like Petrarch:
   Virtue inspires the generous soul to overcome every difficulty; it
   does not suffer one to remain in one place, nor that one should
   look back; it forces one to forget not only pleasures but also just
   duties and affections; it does not allow one to choose anything but
   the ideal of virtue and it does not allow one to desire or think of
   anything else. This is the stimulus that made Ulysses forget
   Laertes, Penelope, and Telemachus. (49)


The ardor and drive of the spirited element in the soul that inspires its rising to challenges, and is vital to endeavor and innovation, might cause Ulysses to turn his back on "an aged wife," a Telemachus "decent not to fail / In offices of tenderness," and their "household gods" (ll. 3, 41-43)--or domesticity itself.

The self-urged Ulysses is determined to "follow the gleam." In Tennyson's poem on St. Telemachus (1892), the ascetic of that name answers the wakeup call of self-application, sent out by God to a confessed "deedless dreamer, lazying out of a life / Of self-suppression" (ll. 21-22). The quickened saint stops eating lotos, so to speak, and becomes a roamer to Rome. He proceeds to martrydom in its arena in the west, and dies denouncing its gladiatorial carnage--his singly made objection eventually prevails on the conscience of Rome's whole populace. Tennyson's Christian pilgrim has blood in him his Classical namesake perhaps lacks:
   And once a flight of shadowy fighters crost
   The [sun's] disk, and once, he thought, a shape with wings
   Came sweeping by him, and pointed to the West,
   And at his ear he heard a whisper 'Rome'
   And in his heart he cried 'The call of God!'
   And called arose, and, slowly plunging down
   Through that disastrous glory, set his face
   By waste and field and town of alien tongue,
   Following a hundred sunsets. ("St. Telemachus," ll. 23-31)


The relentless traveler, urged westward by a Paraclete-like warrior-angel, drawn toward a mysterious, divinely given goal, is stoned to death in a Holy City like the Protomartyr seeing the face of God. Tennyson's son Hallam called this piece a pendant to "St. Simon Stylites" (1833); that self-tortured speaker, like Tithonus, is a contrasting study in unnatural paralysis.

Irving contemporizes the Turneresque gleam lighting Ulysses' horizon: "Columbus was attentive to every gleam of information bearing upon his theory" (abrdgmnt., pp. 16-17); "this great enterprise was the bold conception of his genius.... aided by those scattered gleams of knowledge which fall ineffectually upon ordinary minds" (p. 19). Those on board the Pinta saw the light on the edge of San Salvador "in sudden and passing gleams as if it were a torch in the bark of a fisherman, rising and sinking with the waves; or in the hands of some person on shore, borne up and down as he walked from house to house"-but "so transient and uncertain were these gleams, that few attached any importance to them; Columbus, however, considered them as certain signs of land" (p. 71). Moreover, near the last, "in the midst of illness and despondency, when both life and hope were expiring in the bosom of Columbus, a new gleam was awakened, and blazed up for moment with characteristic fervour" (p. 345). The absence of the gleam, on the original eve of discovery, seems significant too: "When, however, on the evening of the third day of this new course [to the west southwest], the seamen beheld the sun go down upon a shoreless horizon, they again broke forth into loud clamours, and insisted upon abandoning the voyage" (p. 69). Tennyson's Merlin has the right words for these defeatists:
   O young Mariner,
   Down to the haven,
   Call your companions,
   Launch your vessel,
   And crowd your canvas,
   And, ere it vanishes
   Over the margin,
   After it, follow it,
   Follow the Gleam. ("Merlin and the Gleam," ll. 123-131). (50)


Yet Ulysses does not remove-perhaps it is Sunday, on which Columbus never set sail (Irving, abrdgmnt., p. 350).

With Dante in mind, it is the strait of Gibraltar that has become Tennyson's "arch wherethrough / Gleams that untravelled world," "untravelled" replacing Dante's "unpeopled." This process begins with Luigi Pulci's somewhat enlightened devil Astaroth, speaking to the enchanter Malgigi, recounting the world-travels of Rinaldo, when that globe-trotting paladin is ranging abroad in the non-Christian world:
   At last he saw the signs that Hercules
   Put down to warn all mariners against
   sailing beyond; and many other things
   he saw, through all those ports meandering,
   and the more beautiful they were, the more
   solaced and comforted he ever felt,
   and above all, he praised Ulysses for
   sailing beyond, a new world to explore. (51)


Tennyson could have found this passage via Cary's notes to Dante's Inferno, 26. But Columbus only comes "to explore" this "new world" if we think Ulysses' eulogist invites us to import him there. In the revelations to Astolfo in Orlando Furioso 15.19-24, however, no one doubts which new Argonauts and Tiphyses from the westernmost lands shall open unknown routes to India, or discover the "Realms beyond Ind subdued by Arragon":
   "Others I see who leave, on either hand,
   The banks, which stout Alcides cleft in two,
   And in the manner of the circling sun,
   To seek new lands and new creations run.

   "The imperial flags and holy cross I know,
   Fixed on the verdant shore; see some upon
   The shattered barks keep guard, and others go
   A-field, by whom new countries will be won." (52)


Harrington (1595) condenses the Iberian conquests unconscionably, yet wittily points their story with Magellan in the Pacific:
   Yet I foresee, ere many ages passe,
   New marriners and masters new shall rise
   That shall find out that erst so hidden was,
   And shall discover where the passage lies,
   And all the men that went before surpasse,
   To find new lands, new starres, new seas, new skies,
   And passe about the earth as doth the Sunne,
   To search what with Antipodes is done. (53)


More focused on a mediterranean world and Columbus himself, Tasso's crusade epic specifically celebrates the future new Ulysses, who bravely goes beyond the European pale demarcated by Gibraltar in the wake of the crusader Rinaldo's own deliverance from the oceanic Venusburg of the paganized infidel Armida. The knight Ubaldo asks his Fortune-personifying pilot to explain their novel venture into the Atlantic's "hid world." Her answer lights on Columbus' trope-able name:
   Great Hercules (quoth she) when he had quell'd
      The monsters tierce in Afric and in Spain,
   And all along your coasts and countries sail'd,
      Yet durst he not assay the ocean main;
   Within his pillars would he have impal'd
      The over-daring wit of mankind vain;
   Till Lord Ulysses did those bounders pass,
      To see and know he so desirous was:
   The time shall come that sailors shall disdain
      To talk or argue of Alcides' strait;
   And lands and seas that nameless yet remain,
      Shall well be known, their bounders, site, and seat.
   The ships encompass shall the solid main,
      As far as seas outstretch their waters great,
   And measure all the world; and with the sun,
   About this earth, this globe, this compass run.

   A knight of Genes [= Genoa] shall have the hardiment
   Upon this wond'rous voyage first to wend;

   Thy ship, Columbus, shall her canvas wing
      Spread o'er that world that yet concealed lies;
   That scant swift Fame her looks shall after bring,
      Though thousand plumes she have and thousand eyes:
   Let her of Bacchus and Alcides sing,
      Of thee to future age let this suffice
   That of thine acts she some forewarning give,
   Which shall in verse and noble story live. (54)


Tennyson knew this canto, and quotes it in his 1831-32 notebook: "Alzerbe's isle, / Where dwelt the folk that lotos eat erewhile" (st. 18): idlers clinging to Homer's hero also haunt the new Ulysses.

Since the two main religious motifs of Columbus' own life were the Christian recovery of the Holy Sepulcher and the instructing of the islanders of the New World in Christian doctrine, Tasso could scarcely keep Columbus out of his epic, with its implicit post-Tridentine allegory of the recovering of Jerusalem for Christendom as the recovering of the Church for Catholicism. But Americans, not Italians, have written the Columbiads Tasso predicts; they also name their spaceship Columbia. (55)

6. Greeks Victorianized / Ulysses Modernized

Irving's Columbus offers a parallel for Tennyson's Ithacan partly because both are great self-inventors, as successful orator-promoters tend to be. The comparison obtains because Ulysses proposes to be who he is by belatedly recasting himself as one more "new Ulysses"--albeit making a come-back as the old one, and re-achieving an established identity while further enhancing it. With the knight of Genoa he could declare "I am not yet too old to work ... I ... / Am ready to sail forth on one last voyage" ("Columbus," 11. 158, 230-233). John Sterling, in his favorable review of the volume containing "Ulysses," prints it admiringly in its entirety, but also says "We know not why ... a modern English poet should write of Ulysses rather than of the great voyagers of the modern world, Columbus, Gama, or even Drake." (56) His wonderment begs the question it well-nigh answers.

The modernity of Tennyson's antique can also be argued via Lord Byron. Ulysses' self-characterization echoes both Homer and Childe Harold. This helps explain why, like Lord Jim, Ulysses seems located both at home and abroad. Byron's driven wanderer lights upon the very scenes from which Tennyson's voyager proposes to depart. Greece constituted an early Victorian political re-discovery, thanks partly to Byron's own efforts in behalf of a people's liberation from an unhappy history of Muslim and Ottoman overlordship. Reviewing Thomas Moore's Life and Letters of Byron (1826), Macaulay reports the typical view of the "degraded people" whom the exertions of Byron--degraded himself--would help toward national self-recovery:
   A nation, once the first among the nations, pre-eminent in
   knowledge, pre-eminent in military glory, the cradle of philosophy,
   of eloquence, and of the fine arts, had been for ages bowed down
   under a cruel yoke. Ail the vices which tyranny generates ... had
   deformed the character of that miserable race. The valour which had
   won the great battle of human civilisation ... lingered only among
   pirates and robbers. The ingenuity ... had been depraved into a
   timid and servile cunning. (57)


The contempt of Tennyson's Ulysses for his own people approximates the chagrin an ancient Greek would feel at his modern descendants' degeneracy.

Indian education's great legislator mourns the spokesman for the brave spirit of ocean-going adventure:

To Greece [Byron] was attached by peculiar ties. He had when young resided in that country. Much of his most splendid and popular poetry had been inspired by its scenery and by its history. Sick of inaction, degraded in his own eyes ... pining for untried excitement and honourable distinction, he carried his exhausted body and his wounded spirit to the Grecian camp.... [P]leasure and sorrow had done the work of seventy years.... The hand of death was upon him: he knew it; and the only wish which he uttered was that he might die sword in hand.

This was denied to him. Anxiety, exertion, exposure ... soon stretched him on a sick-bed, in a strange land, amidst strange faces, without one human being that he loved near him.... [A]t thirty-six, the most celebrated Englishman of the nineteenth century closed his brilliant and miserable career. (Macaulay, 2:620-621)

Born and nurtured in ancient Hellas, civilization had died in a modern Timbuctoo.

Life in "Modern Greece," according to Felicia Hemans' poem, "Wears but two forms--the tyrant and the slave!" (58) She asserts, "The exiled Greek"-namely, the spirit of liberty itself--now "hath fix'd his sylvan home" in the "primeval woods" of the American wilderness, "the green savannas ... / And isles of flowers, bright-floating o'er the tide," that "fair world ... whose fresh unsullied charms / Welcomed Columbus from the western wave" (sts. 14, 13, 15, 13). She asks the New World to usher into modern times the ancient Greek ideal of freedom: "Wilt thou receive the wanderer to thine arms, / The lost descendant of the immortal brave?" (st. 13). Yet "the exile's heart"--liberty's progeny--is oppressed by knowing that its native land was originally Greece, and is wasted abroad with "heart-sick weariness of mood" (st. 17):
   Loved Greece! all sunk and blighted as thou art:
   Though thought and step in western wilds be free,
   Yet thine are still the daydreams of his heart:
   The deserts spread between, the billows foam,
   Thou, distant and in chains, are yet his spirit's home. (st. 18)


The spiritual tourists of space and time linger "still around the well-known coast [of Greece], / Murmuring a wild farewell to fame and freedom lost" (st. 5). Lengthily chronicling Greece's unfortunate political history, Hemans ends up hoping the Elgin marbles will be models for the sculpture of some "British Angelo" in "the free isle" (st. 99) and that "nations unborn" will one day enshrine Britain's history and visit its shores "to worship [its] remains ... And cry, 'This ancient soil hath nursed a glorious race!'" (st. 101). Byron believed Mrs. Hemans' piece lacked real experience of Greece--she had scarcely been to London.

Hemans' verses exhibit acquaintance with Byron's, of course, but the final chorus of Shelley's Hellas, hymning "the dawn of liberty," is likelier to have galvanized any philhellenism in Tennyson: "A loftier Argo cleaves the main / Fraught with a later prize; ... / A new Ulysses leaves once more / Calypso for his native shore" (ll. 1072-77). For Shelley "felt himself naturally impelled to decorate with poetry the uprise of the descendants of that people whose works he regarded with deep admiration, and to adopt the vaticinatory character in prophesying their success": even if he "did not foresee ... that the navy of his country would fight for instead of against the Greeks, and by the battle of Navarino secure their enfranchisement from the Turks," Shelley nonetheless "resolved to believe that Greece would prove triumphant." (59) He drowned in the Ligurian Sea in 1822, but five years later, in the last great battle between sailing ships, the British navy, at anchor in the center of the outnumbered allied fleet, was not outgunned, nor would it yield.

7. "I cannot rest from travel": The Motors of Homo Viator (60)

Travel has two contrary motors, the restless one, and the goal-oriented one: itineracy for its own sake, versus exploration with a predetermined destination. Itineracy is always driving the traveler to leave the place at which he has arrived or where he finds himself; exploration is always causing him to seek to arrive at the place of which he has heard the doubtful report--the "pleasure domes" of Kubla Khan, Cipango, the source of the Nile, the Prophet's tomb--the places "travelers' tales" predestine him to find. (61) The itinerant records places he has been or things he has encountered and been touched by; the explorer imagines the objects he wishes to effect, or places he thinks to arrive at--places he will name or claim, things he will uncover there. Tennyson's Ulysses has the blood of both kinds in him, and again the music of the poem depends on a somewhat unstable oscillation between two opposed viewpoints.

When he says, partly referring to his service at Troy, "Much have I seen and known ... I am a part of all that I have met" (ll. 13-18; my italics), we overhear Aeneas recounting the Trojans' defeat to Dido in Aeneid, 2.5-6: "The sights most piteous that I myself saw and whereof I was no small part" ("quaeque ipse miserrima vidi / et quorum pars magna fui"). Aeneas' life has come to resemble that of "that long wandering Greek" (Faerie Queene, I.iii.21), the Trojans' former nemesis, a virtually homeless homo viator. The traveler cannot expect to be unchanged, in effect exiled from an insulated identity, by his travel. His alienation is a kind of illusion, if he is actually most at home at large--as in the avowals of the receptive hero of Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage : "I live not in myself, but I become/Portion of that around me." (62) Byron's hero has a decidedly Ulyssean capacity for assimilating or accommodating "manners, climates": "Are not the mountains, waves, and skies, a part / Of me and of my Soul?" (Canto 3, st. 75, ll. 1-2). But exceptionally alienated from any genuine anchorage in a given place or port (the universe itself alone excepted), he also takes on the character of Wandering Jew, eternally displaced, or Flying Dutchman, always at sea:
                              On the sea
   The boldest steer but where their ports invite--
   But there are wanderers o'er Eternity,
   Whose bark drives on and on, and anchor'd ne'er shall be.

(Canto 3, st. 70, ll. 6-9)


These inveterate travelers lack Aeneas' historical goal, his Italy, or Odysseus' personal object, his Penelope. From the outset Byron's hero is committed to and animated by vagabondage. The journeying of such a tumbleweed is an inspired vagrancy. As he travels through the landscape, its sites and ruins travel through him. Foot-loose and fancy-free, mainly tied to his penchant, he incarnates his very means of transportation--steed, oars, wings, sails, the open road, the bounding main--or "the long trail" in Kipling:
   The days are sick and cold, and the skies are grey and old,
     And the twice-breathed airs blow damp;
   And I'd sell my tired soul for the bucking beam-sea roll
     Of a black Bilbao tramp,
        With her load-line over her hatch, dear lass,
        And a drunken Dago crew,
        And her nose held down on the old trail, our own trail,
               the out trail
        From Cadiz south on the Long Trail--the trail that is always
               new. (63)


Departing Cadiz-twice cited as the portal to the Ocean Sea for Dante's Ulysses (Inferno, 26.92, Paradiso, 27.82)--seems preordained.

Sir Richard Burton maintains that the contraries of homesick traveler and inveterate itinerant coexist in single psyches:
   The thorough-bred wanderer's idiosyncracy I presume to be a
   composition of what phrenologists call "inhabitiveness" and
   "locality" equally and largely developed. After a long and toilsome
   march, weary of the way, he drops into the nearest place of rest to
   become the most domestic of men. For a while he smokes the "pipe of
   permanence "with an infinite zest; he delights in various siestas
   during the day, relishing withal deep sleep during the dark hours;
   he enjoys dining at a fixed dinner hour, and he wonders at the
   demoralisation of the mind which cannot find means of excitement in
   chit-chat or small talk, in a novel or a newspaper. But soon the
   passive fit has passed away; again a paroxysm of ennui coming on by
   slow degrees, Viator loses appetite, he walks about his room all
   night, he yawns at conversations, and a book acts upon him as a
   narcotic. The man wants to wander, and he must do so, or he shall
   die. (64)


Burton prides himself on having gotten to Mecca--no vacationing photographer yet had penetrated it. With the succession from Marco Polo to James Cook, there would be fewer and fewer sites Westerners could visit for the first time, more and more they could tour with Karl Baedeker and Cook's Tours. (65) It's Childe Kerouac's Pilgrimage versus the universities' alumnae travel programs.

The motives for travel are part of the question of "Ulysses." Like Columbus, Dante's and Tennyson's mariners attempt to motivate a cadre to think like themselves. What causes a twenty-two year-old Scottish doctor named Mungo Park to apply to the African Association for the first of two journeys making him famous?--"I had a passionate desire to examine into the productions of a country so little known, and to become experimentally acquainted with the modes of life and character of the natives ... I should succeed in rendering the geography of Africa more familiar to my countrymen, and in opening to their ambition and industry new sources of wealth, and new channels of commerce"; (66) set "to explore that continent by way of the Gambia River," the intrepid Park was "not to yield" the chance for economic empire-building, (67) just as Columbus would not yield his project to the king of Portugal, whose court rejected his application to sail under its colors, while basely attempting to beat him to the goal behind his back.

Irving reports an out-voted noble rallying to Columbus' plan: "It would be the greatest glory for Portuguese valor to penetrate into the secrets and horrors of the ocean sea, so formidable to the other nations of the world. Thus occupied, [Portugal] would escape the idleness engendered in a long interval of peace--idleness, that source of vice, that silent file, which, little by little, wore away the strength and valor of a nation" (abrdgmnt., p. 49). Idleness opposes toil, travel is travail--"labour in the ocean, and rowing with the oar" ("The Lotos-Eaters," l. 172 [1832])--not the wont of idle lord or idle rich. "Industry and constant Employment are great preservatives of the Morals and Virtue of a Nation," and by Business "those vices that arise usually from Idleness ... are in great measure prevented": so Ben Franklin's "Information to Those Who Would Remove to America." (68) As opposed to busy-ness, idleness will not yield--profit. Adam Smith made it abundantly clear that this was also true of unemployed capital; as human capital, Ulysses would "shine in use" (l. 23). (69)

Ulysses' will divides between enterprise (trade, industry), edification (knowledge), appeasement of an irrational need or desire (his passion for travel for its own sake), and a moral dread of emasculating, debilitating idleness--that of Tithonus. Here are mixed motives. As Cicero says, "when we have leisure from the demands of business cares, we are eager to see, to hear, to learn something new, and we esteem a desire to know the secrets or wonders of creation as indispensable to a happy life." (70) Self-educating and self-defining, Ulysses seeks a profitable return on his investment in existence and consciousness. There is nonetheless the Byronic, escapist motor: "Still must I on; for I am as a weed, / Flung from the rock, on Ocean's foam, to sail / Where'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath prevail" (CHP, Canto 3, st. 2, ll. 16-18).

Childe Harold offered a Mediterranean model for Westerners in the Orient who thought "to burst all links of habit--there to wander far away, / On from island unto island at the gateways of the day" ("Locksley Hall," ll. 157-158). Byron's voyager is re-invigorated by each departure for the main, mainly because it renews departure: an opportunity to chuck domestic or salaried enslavement, and run away to sea. "Quiet to quick bosoms is a hell":
   And there hath been thy bane; there is a tire
   And motion of the soul which will not dwell
   In its own narrow being, but [will] aspire
   Beyond the fitting medium of desire;
   And, but once kindled, quenchless evermore,
   Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
   Of aught but rest; a fever at the core,
      Fatal to him who bears, to all who ever bore.

   Their breath is agitation, and their life
   A storm whereon they ride, to sink at last,
   And yet so nursed and bigoted to strife,
   That should their days, surviving perils past,
   Melt to calm twilight, they feel overcast
   With sorrow and supineness, and so die;
   Even as a flame unfed, which runs to waste
   With its own flickering, or a sword laid by,
      Which eats into itself, and rusts ingloriously.

(CHP, Canto 3, st. 43-44, ll. 371-387)


Tennyson's Ulysses confesses this incessant need to keep moving--to avoid dying: "How dull it is to pause, to make an end, / To rust unburnished" (ll. 22-23). A rolling stone gathers no moss--decay's unwelcome signs, the aged's need for rest, the arthritic's affliction by muscular-skeletal rust.

8. "To sail beyond the sunset ... until I die"

In hindsight, Ulysses' assertion "I am become a name" seems to boldly predict the title and prevalence of Tennyson's poem: "I am become the name of this famous poem," or even "the name of a quintessentially British poem attaching to an epic Irish novel." Or Tennyson's speaker may refer to his Greek name's extension into the title of Homer's return-epic, or its translation into the Latin Ulixes. The hero's name's odyssey starts from his report in Homer:
   "What then shall I tell you first ...

   Well now, I shall tell you my name first, so that you too
   May know it, and then, when I have escaped the pitiless day
   I may be your guest friend, though I dwell far off in my halls.
   I am Odysseus, son of Laertes, who for my wiles
   Am of note among all men, and my fame reaches heaven.

(Odyssey. 9.16-21; trans. Cook, p. 114)


Thus the Odysseus who tries on immortality with the goddess Calypso, and chooses mortality with the aging Penelope instead, has it both ways: by having achieved the immortality of a name. (71)

This virtual, "humanist" persistence compares favorably with the terrible, fulfilled wish of Tithonus, whose monologue is the pendant to that of "Ulysses"--and whose contrary "immortality" is oxymoronically "fatal." Somewhat similarly cursed and aggrieved, Tennyson's Columbus declares himself "ready to sail forth on one last voyage," and "not yet too old to work [God's] will," just as the poet's Ulysses had proposed that "Some work of noble note, may yet be done, ... 'Tis not too late" (11. 52-57). But in the later poem, the enchained Columbus' own body has become his Tithonus-like fetters: "racked with pains" (l. 195) tallies with "Racked ... with gout, and wrenched with pains" (l. 231), and this last rhymes with the nearby "returned in chains ... Gained in ... service" (ll. 227, 232).

Resolved "not to yield," Ulysses resists the blandishments of retirement, or the incapacitations of old age. Byron's promptings "Beyond the fitting medium of desire" (CHP, Canto 3, st. 42, l. 374) challenge Tithon-Dante-Cary's "Where all should pause, as is most meet for all" (l. 23). However late in the day, every hour saved from the "eternal silence" of death (l. 27) should be earned for new experience, not its renunciation. The remaining intervals of consciousness--if not hoarded in-a-doors, like daylight hidden under a bushel--must bring "new things" (l. 28). Existence should be pursued for the sake of acquiring them, however improbably reached "Beyond the utmost bound of human thought" (l. 32).

"Beyond" is the key word. "There lies the port," not in a bottle and "the lees" (l. 7) on the common-room table, or on the lee or port or Portugal side, but on the starboard side with the seemingly illimitable ocean beyond it. Opportunity presents: to discover what lies in some portal to the East, "beyond the sunset" (l. 60), with Aurora's "presence and ... portals" in the Orient of "Tithonus" (l. 57).

Additional resonances are found in the defunctive swansong of "Tithon"/"Tithonus." "Tithonus" begins:
   The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
   The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
   Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
   And after many a summer dies the swan.
   Me only cruel immortality
   Consumes. ("Tithonus," ll. 1-6; "Tithon" has "rose" for "swan")


We compare the self-pity of Mary Shelley's uniquely lonely creature, Frankenstein's monster, suffering because, like Tithonus, he is compelled "to vary from the kindly race of men" ("Tithonus," 1. 29; "Tithon," 1. 21: "To vary from his kind"):

No Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam's supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him.

Autumn passed thus. I saw, with surprise and grief, the leaves decay and fall, and nature again assume the barren and bleak appearance it had worn when I first beheld the woods and the lovely moon. (chap. 15; italics added) (72)

A chapter further on, nature seems to abandon this orphan and exile, as the year falls into a desolate winter and the creature's wild world-travel commences. (73)

Frankenstein offers a parable of Romantic sensibility, with its Adam-like monster as one of the "un-dead," covertly acknowledging the possible horror of immortality. By creating it, Frankenstein has gone beyond the limits, especially those set on knowledge. The attempt on them hardly diminishes near the end of the tale, when, trapped and dying on an ice-bound ship, Frankenstein gives his speech urging mutinous mariners to persevere on their northward quest through the elements:

Oh! Be men, or be more than men. Be steady to your purposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say that it shall not. Do not return to your families with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows. Return as heroes who have fought and conquered and who know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe. (chap. 24, p. 204)

"I can write unto you no news, though I have seene much.... We are resolved to trie the uttermost, and lye onely expecting a faire winde, and to refresh our selves to avoyd the Ice, which now is come off the West Coasts, of which we have seene whole Ilands": so read the first and last sentences of the last letter-penned in Iceland--of the great seeker of the Northwest Passage to India. (74) "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield": that purpose drove Shackleton and Perry to the poles. But are the accents those of Cristoforo Colon and Henry Hudson, or Dr. Frankenstein and Mister Kurtz?

Voyages in Homer are undertaken late in the day, when waters are calm. (75) But metaphorically "Ulysses" voices a deathwish to sail into darkness and oblivion ("It may be that the gulfs will wash us down" [l. 621), even while the speaker himself voices an opposite wish to extend life's journey beyond its natural bounds and its day beyond sunset (even to find the more abundant life promised by the Gospel). (76) The opposed wishes are held in balance by the speaker's apparent immobility or becalmment: neither night-journey is presently undertaken--both voyages are merely proposed. That it might indeed be "too late" for his Ulyssean soul to undertake some new venture is an obvious concern of Columbus--or any other aging personage, such as the seemingly optimistic Cicero of De Senectu, xx.72: "old age has not a certain term, and there is good cause of an old man living so long as he can fulfil and support his proper duties and hold death of no account. By this means old age actually becomes more spirited and more courageous than youth." (77) But Cicero also treats old age as being properly a preparation for death, rather than occasion for reinvigorating youthful enterprises.

Swansong and last hurrah--each is the other voice's secret confessor. Possessed of a hero's heart (see l. 68), Ulysses nonetheless knows his chance for heroic adventure may have passed--Columbus-like, he could be stuck at home, beset by ill health, his former supporters' irritation by his projects, and importunities to retire. Tennyson displaced Columbus' enchainment to the last phase of his career, as if equating it with the terminal arrestedness of his Ulysses. But Ulysses' outward-bound reflections oppose him and his Dantean avatar to Homer's home-seeker. "To seek" means abroad, "to find" means a new frontier, and "not to yield" means the new possessions claimed by right of discovery--and not to default in mounting further searches for them, nor surrender compensation for having found them.

Nonetheless, Ulysses goes no further than an attempt to rouse his mates. He remains stuck to a couch or bed. His escapist reveries speak nostalgically: he would rather return to the past than face his real prospects. Traditionally Odysseus' crew perished abroad (like Dante's Ulysses himself); this allows for the possibility Ulysses is only talking to himself, or imaginary friends, or else communing with the drowned and dead--Phlebas among them. He sounds resolute before his imagined rhetorician's audience, but also as if his persuasion were addressed to his own soul: in internal colloquy with an eternal inner-Hallam. Nothing gives evidence of anyone else reacting to him, nor anyone paying attention, much less hearkening. Unlike counterparts in Browning monologues, or the Browningesque "Columbus," the putative listener or mon frere remains mostly undramatized. Like Merlin in "Merlin and the Gleam," Ulysses counsels adherence to glimmerings in his own prophetic eyes. "You and I are old" (l. 49) could address his mirror image, a fellow on the beach with trousers rolled. Pairing "Ulysses" with "Tithon" and/or "Tithonus" strengthens the possibility, if his reflection responds by urging he yield to respite:
   Why should a man desire in any shape [way]
   To vary from his kind, or beat the roads
    ["Tithonus": To vary from the kindly race of men]
   Of life, beyond the goal of ordinance
    ["Tithonus": Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance]
   Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?"

("Tithon," ll. 20-23)


These words carry apparently unnoted Dantean baggage. The eternally aging speaker, "Here at the quiet limit of the world," partly echoes the resolve of a "modern Ulysses," namely Guido da Montefeltro, in Cary's translation of Inferno, 27. In contrast to Ulysses, the Guido of the partner canto plans to retire from a life of machinations. By virtue of a proto-Machiavellian cunning, he too had made himself a name--a notorious one:
   All the ways of winding subtlety I knew,
   And with such art conducted, that the sound
   Reach'd the world's limit. Soon as to that part
   Of life I found me come, when each behooves
   To lower sails and gather in the lines;
   That which before had pleased me, then I rued,
   And to repentance and confession turn'd,
   Wretch that I was; and well it had bestead me.

(Cary trans., p. 186; italics added)


Dante's Ulysses defied the normative reaction to old age, "when each behooves / To lower sails," while Guido tried to have it both ways, retiring from a life of crime while committing just one more.

Cary's translation includes a weighty footnote to Guido's defaulted resolve:

To lower sails. Our poet had the same train of thought as when he wrote that most beautiful passage in his Convito, beginning "E qui da sapere, che siccome dice Tullio in quello de Senettute, la naturale morte," &c., p 209. "As it hath been said by Cicero, in his treatise of old age, natural death is like a port and haven to us after a long voyage; and even as the good mariner, when he draws near the port, lowers his sails, and enters it softly with a weak and inoffensive motion, so ought we to lower the sails of our worldly operations, and to return to God with all our understanding and heart, to the end that we may reach this haven with all quietness and with all peace. And herein we are mightily instructed by nature in a lesson of mildness; for in such a death itself there is neither pain nor bitterness; but, as ripe fruit is lightly and without violence loosened from its branch, so our soul without grieving departs from the body in which it hath been."
   "So mayst thou live, till like ripe fruit thou drop
   Into thy mother's lap, or be with ease
   Gather'd, not harshly pluck'd, for death mature."

(Milton, Paradise Lost, 11.537).


These disquisitions on senescence were not lost on the youthful author of "Ulysses." "There lies the port," but Ulysses scruples "to make an end" (l. 22), where Milton's Adam asked--like Tennyson's Tithonus--"Why do I overlive?" (78)

Cary's Milton quote replaces a second passage in Cicero's treatise:
   And, just as apples when they are green are with difficulty plucked
   from the tree, but when ripe and mellow fall of themselves, so,
   with the young, death comes as a result of force, while with the
   old it is the result of ripeness. To me, indeed, the thought of
   this "ripeness" for death is so pleasant, that the nearer I
   approach death the more I feel like one who is in sight of land at
   last and is about to anchor in his home port after a long voyage.
   (De Senectu, 19.71; Falconer trans., p. 83) (79)


Cary omits further like matter from the Convivio citation: "The noble soul ... surrenders itself to God in this [last] age of life and awaits the end of this life with great desire, and seems to be leaving an inn and returning to its proper dwelling, seems to be coming back from a journey and returning to the city, seems to be coming in from the sea and returning to port." (80)
   O you miserable and debased beings who speed into this port with
   sails raised high! Where you should take your rest, you shipwreck
   yourselves against the force of the wind and perish at the very
   place to which you have so long been journeying! Certainly the
   knight Lancelot did not wish to enter with his sails raised high,
   nor the most noble of our Italians, Guido of Montefeltro. These
   noble men did indeed lower the sails of their worldly
   preoccupations and late in life gave themselves to religious
   orders, forsaking all worldly delights and affairs. (81)


Dante counsels that old age should prompt a lowering of expectations, in the peaceable anticipation of one's quietus-like demise; his figure is that of the life-mariner disengaging his ship from sailing full force ahead, and thus enjoying, like the death promised to Milton's Adam, "A gentle wafting," "like sleep" (Paradise Lost, 12.435, 434).

Ulysses, in contrast, addressing his companions as "My mariners, / Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me" (ll. 45-46), claims "Old age hath yet his honour and his toil" (l. 50). God similarly encouraged Irving's dreamer: "Thy present troubles are the reward of the toils and perils thou hast endured in serving others" (abrdgmnt., p. 301). Only evil tempters like Spenser's Despair urge the flagging faithful that "Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas, / Ease after warre, death after life does greatly please" (Faerie Queene, 1.9.40). Yet "Ulysses" also pronounces, unconsciously, an elegy over active endeavor and yields to the stasis and enervation it purports to renounce. Ulysses' abrupt "Push off" (l. 58) rings hollowly against his slow moon's climb (l. 55), and the quantitative lassitudes and abiding passivities of "There gloom the dark broad seas" (l. 45), "The long day wanes" (l. 55), and "the deep/Moans round with many voices" (ll. 55-56): all of which issue clarion calls to renewed lethargy.

Dante's Guido and Tennyson's Tithonus have each suppressed the "port" or harbor belonging to the nautical metaphor found in Cicero and the Convivio (that is, life is a voyage to the port of death, which should be gently entered), yet they have also left the metaphor implicit here, despite the antithetical idea of life as an ongoing invitation to further adventure. Only through "Tithon" can we re-read Ulysses' "There lies the port" as meaning "there lies 'the bound of ordinance.'" But if Gibraltar or Cadiz is the port of western arrival, and not of eastern departure, and the Pillars of Hercules are a limit to travel, not the launch-point for it, then the East that Tithonus occupies is situated far beyond the western limit at which Ulysses would have first arrived on the track of the sun. Tithonus' dawn lies far beyond Ulysses' sunset, yet where one ends the other begins. Tennyson orients the two poems on an antiquated model, the Patristic Imagination of the antipodes-the notion of a reversed, virtual world that Columbian Discovery so decisively shelved in some museum of quaint ideas. (82)

Consider the antithesis: Ulysses can never arrive, Tithonus never leave. Ulysses does not want to die, Tithonus does not want to live. Ulysses would abandon an aging wife, as he once left the immortal goddess Calypso; Tithonus beds just such a goddess nightly, Aurora in her eternal youth. Ulysses desires to pursue the western twilight on an eternally receding horizon, to follow the gleam; Tithonus awakens daily with the eastern dawn-light at his side, "the old mysterious glimmer" ("Tithon," l. 30) of the eyelids of the morning. (83) Tithonus wishes to go home and go to bed in the lonely west, like an Odysseus returning to the aging Penelope; Ulysses dreams of going away and awakening in the Far East; he desires "To live confronted with eternal youth" ("Tithon," l. 13). Tithonus seeks union with the shades and his kind in Hades; Ulysses seeks renewal with emparadised demigods like Achilles, or to "sail beyond the sunset" of his own mortal life--and wife. Each has half of what the other wants; each wants half of what the other's got. "[T]ake back thy gift," the aging Tithon pleads (l. 19); for it is those who die young who do not grow old, and thus inherit eternal youth and become its name. Tennyson foresaw that he would awaken daily to the image of young Hallam--his personal Aurora--in exchange for a virtual eternity of growing old with himself: the Tithonus of his late photographs.

Tithonus finds himself at the place that Ulysses--were he to successfully mount that last voyage and arrive at Columbus' hoped--for destination in India--would reach by travelling west, correspondent to the arrival of Dante's Ulysses, in advance of Christianity itself, at Mt. Purgatory--somewhere near Hawaii and the discoveries of Captain Cook. In Lucian's True History (1.7) the designated limits of Dionysus' east and Hercules' west curiously met in the same place. The report defies logical explanation, but the twain have also contrived to meet in Tennyson's diptych. The immobilized Tithonus is a depressed couch potato Ulysses, watching the travel channe1 (84)--the avid and rejuvenated Ulysses is a bestirred, early-bird Tithonus, a pilgrim departing from the paralyzed nadir of existence, and arriving a tercet later, with the dawn on Easter morn, at the antipodes.

If "Ulysses" is a kind of heroic "vespers," "Tithonus" is a kind of sardonic aubade. Tithonus' fate--a charmed life, as it were--is to have ended up eternally tantalized by an eastern paradise and an unrealizable death, and to awaken every morning a day older, less competent, more moribund, nor any wiser or more capable; wishing for surcease like Mariana in the moated grange, having found a terrible version of the zoned-out existence of the land-lubbing Lotos-Eaters; or comatose with the entranced and moribund subject in Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar"--kept barely alive, "mesmerized in articulo mortis" by what Roland Barthes identifies as a rhetoric of pure repetition. (85) In Tennyson's "Two Voices" the supernaturalist objected that the naturalist tried to make "all the horizon dark" (l. 390); "Death closes all" (l. 51) is one of the numerous cliches "Ulysses" almost embarrassingly teeters on. "The stereotype"--a stereotypical expression like Despair's "Death is the end of woes" (86)--"is the word repeated without any magic, any enthusiasm, as though it were natural, as though by some miracle this recurring word were adequate on each occasion for different reasons"; and thus, Barthes adds, "the false death, the atrocious death, is what has no end, the interminable. ... The stereotype is this nauseating impossibility of dying." (87) Both "Ulysses" and "Tithonus" cast the stereotype's spell on us; the poems' self-entranced subjects surely fall under it too.

In the light of what followed upon Columbus' discovery, "Ulysses" can be read as the Admiral's deathbed apology, "our amends for all we might have done" ("Columbus," l. 34), just as, in the light of the death of Hallam, "Tithonus" can be read as a survivor's lament for all that might have been. As with the two horizons, where one ends the other begins. Tithonus, who wants to escape the east and die in the west ("lap me deep within the lonely west" ["Tithon," l. 27]), would tell the perfervid adventurer that it's time to go to bed and get some rest; Ulysses, who wants to sail beyond the sunset and rejuvenate his career, would tell the invalid that it's high time to get off his duff and exert himself to advance the race. The two testaments seem oblivious to each other, denying any reorientation of the one's stereotypes upon on the other's: as if such an exchange of roles and places--or of bequeathals--were not already in their stars.

Or star. The sinking star leading Tennyson's Ulysses beyond preconceived boundaries is not named, but the nautical visionary's prophetic guide in Barlow's Columbiad was Hesper, and the hero's personal genius reveals to the enchained Columbus something like the troubled but triumphant progress of Progress in the Americas, Hesperia's survival as Columbia long after its namesake's departure from this world. "Hesper hateth Phosphor, evening hateth morn" ("Hesperides," l. 82), yet the names designate the same celestial body, as found on horizons and visible in hours that are diametrically opposed. But in their arrestment at the impasse between life and death--at the edges of the world or the moaning of a bar--Tennyson's two aging personae are moral mirrors. Given the inter-reflection and mutual entailment of their images, we are hardly meant to decide which should enlighten which, or (like Hallam and Tennyson) which has got the start--or non-start--on the other.

Notes

(1) James Cook, The Voyages of Captain James Cook (London, 1842), p. 445.

(2) The author has profited greatly from Chistopher Ricks, ed. The Poems of Tennyson, 3vols. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1987). Conversations with Prof. Peter Nohrnberg and Min Zhi Heng have also influenced many points. Very roughly speaking, the following eight reflections of Tennyson's Ulysses are exemplified, respectively, by Columbus, Leopold Bloom, Sir Stamford Raffles, Galileo, Lord Byron, Sir Richard Burton, and Tithonus.

(3) Homer: The Odyssey: A New Verse Translation, trans. Albert Cook (New York: Norton, 1967), p. 114.

(4) Perhaps the poems were composed in that "[g]enerous heat of rivalry" which animates the two idealistic sisters' "unity of soul" in Hallam's "Farewell to the South" (ll. 407, 402), in The Writings of Arthur Hallam, ed. T. H. Vail Motter (New York: MLA, 1943), p. 19. Both poets admired Wordsworth and Coleridge, whose debut collection, Lyrical Ballads, was a joint publication.

(5) The story appears in a Schiller poem ("Das verschleierte Bild zu Sais") which Hallam probably knew, and then in Hallam's sonnet after first meeting Emily Tennyson ("How is't for every glance of thine I find")--and again in Hallam's 1832 essay on Cicero (Motter's citations in Writings, pp. 83 and 154; see also p. 162).

(6) Tennyson to Hallam's father, 1834, qtd. in Ricks, 1:190.

(7) For biographical testimony that Hallam's "Timbuctoo" inspired Tennyson's, and that Hallam well knew it, see Ricks, 1:189. That the two friends read Dante together appears from In Memoriam, sec. LXXXIX.

(8) "Columbus," from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Friend, ed. Barbara E. Rooke, 2 vols., in The Collected Works (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969), 1:481. (Given a basis in Hallam and Chiabrera, I resist, throughout this essay, the chronologically justified conclusion that Tennyson's "Columbus" rewrites his "Ulysses," in favor of the idea that his "Ulysses" rewrites an ur-"Columbus.")

(9) James Joyce, Ulysses (1937; London: Bodley Head, 1955), p. 670. Bloom's copy has a yellow cover; its traveler's first stop, after his Vancouver departure, is Japan. Its unnamed author is Frederick Diodati Thompson; his subtitle is Readings from the Diary of a Globe Trotter. "Ithaca,"or home as found, stops at "Where?" Replying from abroad, "Penelope" ends Ulysses on Gibraltar. (The Citizen refers to Greek merchants passing through its gate, and Molly reports "general Ulysses Grant whoever he was" once called there.)

(10) Andrew Wilson, "The Inland Sea of Japan" [1861], in Travellers' Tales from 'Blackwood' (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1969), p. 73.

(11) For this and further information on Benton, see Henry Nash Smith, "Passage to India: Thomas Hart Benton and Asa Whitney," Bk. I, chap. 2 of Virgin Land: The American West As Symbol and Myth (1950; New York: Vintage Books/Random House, n.d.), pp. 20-23.

(12) T.S. Eliot, "'In Memoriam,'" in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich / Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1975), pp. 241; Hugh Kenner, The Art of Poetry (New York: Rhinehart, 1959), p. 197. Eliot's own gift for Ulyssean narrative appears in "Death by Water" in the ur-Waste Land, where the lurid seaman's tale (partly inspired by the Shackleton who appears in Eliot's note on l. 360) echoes both Tennyson's "Ulysses" and Dante's Inferno, 26 (as well as Dante's tale-telling Ugolino, in Inferno, 33). See T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts, ed. Valerie Eliot (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), pp. 62-69. Ezra Pound evidently thought this narrative-a lurid bricolage (Melville, Stephen Crane, Conrad, Hemingway)--no gift to Eliot's poem, apart from its ending upon Phlebas' unshored remains. This Phoenician, who drowns in Dante's whirlpool, is Eliot's Ulysses; the withered Cumaean Sybil quoted in Greek for the poem's epigraph--"I want to die"--is his Tithonus.

(13) I owe this reference--to "The War Passages in 'Maud,'" Saturday Review 1 (1855), in Tennyson: The Critical Heritage, ed. John D. Jump (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967), p. 188-to Prof. Herbert Tucker.

(14) James Russell Lowell, The Poetical Works (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1895), p. 57, "I have no choice." This edition is hereafter cited as LPW.

(15) Paradise Lost, 1.237-238 ("such resting found the sole / Of unblest feet," echoing Noah's unlanding dove or columba [Vulg.] in Genesis 8.8-9); 1.293-294 ("the toast / Of some great ammiral"); 9.1115-16 ("Such of late / Columbus found th' American so girt": on the ashamed protoplast's indigene-like near-nakedness). Much hinges on Satan's proto-Columbian landfall at 4.1034-46 (see "his spread wings").

(16) Dante Alighieri, The Vision; or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, trans. Rev. Henry Francis Cary (New York, 1882), pp. 181-182. (The Inferno translation was first published 1805-06, the whole in 1816, and a third edn. in 1831; the text I have used dates from the corrected 1844 edn.)

(17) Giovanni Battista Ramusio, in Navigazioni e viaggi (Venice, 1559), ed. Marica Milanesi, 4 vols.; vol. 3 contains Viagi di Marco Polo with Ramusio's Espositione (Turin: Enaudi, 1978), p. 23.

(18) Citations will be from both Washington Iriving, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus [abridged by the author] (London, 1831) and The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, 3 vols., Isabella Edition (New York, 1868).

(19) Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems, ed. Thomas H. Johnson (Boston: Little, Brown, "First Edition," n.d., c. 1962), p. 27, no. 48. The cry "Land! land!" was originally a false alarm, given several days and several times in advance of the authentic sighting (Irving, abrdgmnt., p. 68). For the Thompson book in Bloom's library one may substitute Ik Marvel's Reveries of a Bachelor (1850) in Emily's library.

(20) "The Ecstasie," ll. 35, 46; see The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive, http://etext.virginia.edu/kinney/works/ecstasie.htm.

(21) Matthew Rowlinson, "The Ideological Moment of Tennyson's 'Ulysses,'" VP 30, nos. 3-4 (1992): 267.

(22) See chap. 18, in John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government (1861), intro. F. A. Hayek (Chicago: Regnery, 1962), pp. 346-348: "There are, as we have already seen, conditions of society in which a vigorous despotism is in itself the best mode of government for training people in what is specifically wanting to render them capable of higher civilisation.... To govern a country under responsibility to the people of that country, and to govern one country under responsibility to the people of another, are two very different things. What makes the excellence of the first is, that freedom is preferable to despotism; but the last is despotism."

(23) "On Liberty," in The Philosophy of John Stuart Mill: Ethical, Political and Religious, ed. Marshall Cohen (New York: The Modern Library / Random House, 1961), p. 198.

(24) See A Vewe of the Present State of Ireland, in Spenser's Prose Works, ed. Rudolf Gottfried, vol. 10 of Works of Edmund Spenser: A Variorum Edition, ed. Edwin Greenlaw, et al. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1932-57), p. 54: "I Cannot see how that maie better be then by the discipline of the Lawes of Englande, ffor the Inglishe weare at firste as stoute and warlike a people as ever weare the Irishe[;] And yeat yee see [they] are now broughte vnto that Civilytie that no nacion in the worlde excelleth them in all goodlye Conuersacion and all the studies of knowledge and hvmanitye."

(25) See Mill, Considerations, p. 345. In his opposition to the "unequal laws" of the colonial policies represented by Warren Hastings and Mr. Fox, Edmund Burke had defended the people of India as possessed of a noble and venerable civilization entitling them to legal equality with their English colonizers.

(26) Compare the somewhat Miltonic sonnet "Buonaparte" (1832), on the lunatic who "thought to ... bind with bands / That island queen who sways the floods and lands / From Ind to Ind" (ll. 1-4).

(27) Medea, in Seneca: In Ten Volumes, vol. 8, Tragedies I, trans Frank Justus Millet (1917; Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1979), p. 261. Rome must surpass Hercules' and Dionysus' limits, in Virgil, Aeneid, 6.791-807.

(28) Francis Bacon, The New Organon and Related Writings, ed. Fulton H. Anderson (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1960), I.lxxii, pp. 70-71. A new Solomon's subject, the king's new instrument rescripted enlightened seventeenth century England as itself a potentially Utopian "New Atlantis" or Hesperides.

(29) The Classical sources for the Herculean boundaries of travel and geographical knowledge are Pindar, Olympian 4, Nemean 3, and Lucian, True History 1.5 and 7. For the Portuguese (Da Gama's) violation of the analogous eastern limit, namely the India conquered by Dionysus, see Luis de Camoens, Lusiads l.30. In Lucian, as noted, Hercules' and Dionysus' limits are the same limit, which makes no apparent sense. See David Marsh, "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules: Voyage and Veracity in Exploration Narratives," in "Images of America and Columbus in Italian Literature," ed. Albert N. Mancini and Dino S. Cervigni, Annali D'Italianisitica 10 (1992): 138. For Ulysses' breaching of the boundaries, see Dante's Divina Commedia, rev. ed. Charles H. Grandgent (Boston: Heath, 1933), "Argument" for Inferno, 26, p. 230. Cadiz, crossed with Jonah's irreconcilable landing places, inspires an apt meditation in Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (2007): "'[It isl as if the Straits of Gibraltar acted as some metaphysical junction point between the worlds. In those days to pass through that narrow aperture into the vast, uncertain field of Ocean was to leave behind the known world, and perhaps its conventions about being in only one place at a time'" (pp. 521-522).

(30) The contrast between Dante and the early modern era regarding "venture" appears in Nohrnberg, "The Inferno," in Homer to Brecht: The Western Epic and Dramatic Tradition, ed. Michael Seidel and Edward Mendelson (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1977), pp. 97-98:
   And the maelstrom closes, fourth time down-"as Another wished"-over
   the ears of those who listened to [Dante'sl Ulysses.

      For a moment we cannot believe that this man sinned. Columbus and
   Faustus seem natural partners; studiousness is twin-born with
   curiosity. Yet the Devil was the first false counselor, and there
   is an evil curiosity that is tempted to try anything. We have felt
   something in Ulysses that looks right through us, a fixation on the
   horizons where the polestars are lost, and we have sensed in him
   something that has never heeded another's wish. His is a
   glassy-eyed autohypnosis that carries the voyager out like a
   lemming to his death.


--Contra Francesco De Sanctis, The History of Italian Literature [Storia della Literatura Italiana, 1870], trans. Joan Redfern from edn. of Benedetto Croce, 2 vols. (1931; New York: Basic Books, n.d.), 1:208-209:
   [Dante's] Ulysses, who has overstepped the landmarks of Hercules,
   is thrown down into the water "as it pleased God." And yet some of
   this audacity of Ulysses is in Dante himself, who puts noble words
   into his mouth, and makes us feel that burning curiosity to know
   which assailed the men of that era. We seem to be taking part in a
   voyage of Columbus: sin becomes virtue.

      Ulysses is the only great personage in Malebolge; he is a pyramid
   standing in mud.


(31) The references to Kepler and Manso are given in John Gascoigne, "Crossing the Pillars: Francis Bacon, the Royal Society, and the 'New World,'" Baroque Science Conference, University of Sydney, February 14-17, 2008: paper published on internet, at http:// www.usyd.edu.au/baroquescience/February_Conference_2008/ February-2008-papers/Gascoigne_Crossing_the Pillars of Hercules.pdf, p. 12 (citing Kepler, Opere XII, 21), and pp. 12-13 ("Gambattista Manso ... wrote in 1610 that 'Ptolemy had been judged to be a new Hercules beyond whose limits it was impossible to go' but, as he told Galileo, 'you may count yourself almost a new Columbus'"--citing Anthony Padgen, European Encounters with the New World: From the Renaismnce to Romanticism [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1993], pp. 91 and 98). Campanella on Galileo is cited in Jerome K. Langford, Galileo, Science and the Church (Ann Arbor: Univ.of Michigan Press, 1992), pp. 81-82, 160 ("another Columbus"). Captain James Cook is a "new Columbus," according to Columbus himself, in Joel Barlow's Columbiad (1807) 9.471: Barlow, Works, intro. W. K. Bottorff and A. L. Ford, 2 vols. (Gainesville, Florida: Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints, 1970), 1:736. Thus "another Columbus" became a topos on the model of "a new Ulysses." On the old/ new Ulysses theme, see Piero Boitano, L'ombra di Ulisse: Figure di un mito (Bologna: il Mulino, 1992).

(32) Canto 10.45, in Selections from 'L'Adone' of Giambattista Marino, trans. Harold Martin Priest (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1967), p. 191.

(33) "Typhis first raised sails above the waves": L'Adone, 10.3, p. 182.

(34) The Homericized Pacific of the Keats sonnet (dated October 1816) cited here is comparable to the "Grecian grandeur" and "billowy main" of its pair poem (clated February 1817) "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles." The explorer silent on a peak in Darien might foresee not only a passage to India, but the Panama Canal, on the evidence of its prediction, via a seraph-like overview, in Barlow, Columbiad 10.203-206: "Where Darien hills o'erlook the gulfy tide, / Cleft in his view the enormous banks divide; / Ascending sails their opening pass pursue / And waft the sparkling treasures of Peru" [1:760]). Associating reading with travel is common in Tennyson's century, which saw the category "Travel" emerge within Everyman's Library. The best example from Tennyson, for comparison with Keats' sonnet on Homer, is "Milton" (1863), where Milton's Eden is almost cast adrift by the speaker's reacling about it-he experiences "Charm, as a wanderer out in ocean, / Where some refulgent sunset of India / Streams o'er a rich ambrosial isle" (ll. 12-14).

(35) Irving, 3:367-368 (which cites Gosselin's Researches on the Geography of the Ancient Poets). The passage is in Appendix 35, "Of the Situation of the Terrestrial Paradise." Compare Barlow's similar note on his character Hesper in the Columbiad, in explanation of soon-to-be-superseded Hesper's claim (Bk. 1, ll. 145-150) to name the lands to the west, as Atlas names the intervening ocean: the western lands are "Hesperia call'd, from my anterior claim; / But now Columbia, from thy patriarch name" (Bk. 1, ll. 229-230).

(36) "From constantly comparing maps and charts, and noting the progress and direction of discovery, [Columbus] was led to perceive how much of the world remained unknown, and to meditate on the means of exploring it.... The recent discoveries [of islands off Africa] had inflamed [Iberian shore-dwellers'] imaginations, and filled them with visions of other islands, of greater wealth and beauty, yet to be discovered in the boundless wastes of the Atlantic.... Plato's imaginary Atalantis once more found firm believers .... One of the strongest symptoms of the excited state of the popular mind at this eventful era, was the prevalence of rumors respecting unknown islands casually seen in the ocean. Many of these were mere fables, fabricated...; many had their origin in the heated imaginations of voyagers, beholding islands in those summer clouds which lie along the horizon, and often beguiled the sailor with the idea of distant lands" (Irving, I.iv; 1:28, 29).

(37) "This lucidity of spirit, this quick convertibility of facts to principles distinguish him from the dawn to the close of his sublime enterprise, insomuch that, with all the sallying ardor of his imagination, his ultimate success has been admirably characterized as a 'conquest of reflection'" (Irving, 2:455).

(38) Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, trans. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913), p. 176, quoting "Miss [Helen Maria] Williams' Translation" of Humboldt's Personal Narrative (2:19).

(39) Compare, beyond Gades, the Atlantic's "boundary winds" in Cary trans, of Paradiso, 27.75 (Vision, p. 541). See Joselyn M. Almeida, "Conquest and Slavery in Southey's Madoc and Montgomery's The West Indies," in Robert Southey and the Contexts of English Romanticism, ed. Lynda Pratt (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 154-157. See also Nigel Leask, "Southey's Madoc: Reimagining the Conquest of America," in Robert Southey, pp. 133-150.

(40) On Barlow's Columbiad as the prophetic work of an American epicist, see Roy Harvey Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry (1961; Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 63-68. And see Columbus: Dream and Act: A Tragic Suite, by the Spenserian scholar Foster Provost, partly published in 1986 (Providence: John Carter Brown Library, 1986): "13 lyric sections from the longer, epic-length poem." For the use of Tennyson to argue for the continuation of NASA's program after the loss of seven astronauts and their space-shuttle upon re-entry, see Duncan Steel's editorial, three days later, in The Guardian, Monday, February 3, 2003: "To seek, m find and not to yield: The Columbia disaster should not stop manned space trips."

(41) "At length, in spite of every difficulty and danger, he had accomplished his object. The great mystery of the ocean was revealed; his theory, which had been the scoff of sages, was triumphantly established; he had secured to himself a glory which must be as durable as the world itself" (abrdgmnt., p. 71).

(42) See Irving, abrdgmnt., pp. 193-194:
   Weak and indolent by nature, and brought up in the untasked
   idleness of their soft climate, and their fruitful groves, death
   itself seemed preferable to a life of toil and anxiety. They saw no
   end to this harassing evil [i.e., production quotas], which had so
   suddenly fallen upon them; no prospect of return to that roving
   independence and ample leisure, so dear to the wild inhabitant of
   the forest. The pleasant life of the island was at an end: --the
   dream in the shade by day; the slumber, during the sultry noon-tide
   heat, by the fountain or the stream, or under the spreading palm
   tree; and the song, the dance, and the game in the mellow
   evening.... [Now] [t]he ballads to which they kept time were of a
   melancholy and plaintive character.... These ballads or areytos,
   they sang with mournful tunes and doleful voices, bewailing the
   loss of their liberty.


Southey's Madoc--native medieval Welsh prince become (pre.)Renaissance epic colonizer--discovers the New World and partners there with the Hoamen Amerinds to challenge and beard their bloody Aztec oppressors. (Southey's liberal message may be that Europeans or English should lead by the power of Madoc's Welsh example, hot coerce by samples of Spanish musketeers' power.) The relations of Madoc with the Black Legend (Anacaona appears prominently in Las Casas' Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies), Coleridge and Southey's own Pantisocratic plans m emigrate to the Susquehanna, and earlier epicized encounters with the New World, such as Cowley's De Plantis, are beyond the scope of this article. But Of Plants V has Apollo pacify the conflict between old and new world belligerents with a song saluting the Discoverer: "Herculean Limits cou'd not thee contain ... When, Guanahan, thy Watch-light they descry, / Thy flaming Beacon from afar they spy: / Whose happy Light to their transported Eyes / Discloses a new World" (Nahum Tate trans., 5.1107-26 [c. Latin 5.10101)

(43) For Eliot's designation, see "Ulysses, Order, and Myth," in Selected Prose, ed. Kermode, pp. 175-179; for Tennyson's version--in Memoir, 2:364--see intro, of Douglas Bush, ed., "Tennyson," in Major British Writers, 2 vols., ed. G. B. Harrison (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1959); 2:374. Both versions of the technique appear in the Stetson-Mylae and Eugenides-Phlebas conjunctions in Eliot's Waste Land (1922), and the Troy-District of Columbia conjunction in Allen Tate's "Aeneas in Washington" (1933).

(44) I owe this observation to Prof. Peter Nohrnberg.

(45) A pioneering study drawing deserved attention to this poem is Herbert F. Tucker's "Columbus in Chains: Tennyson and the Conquests of Monologue," Harvard Library Bulletin n.s. 4, no. 3 (Winter 1993-94): 43-64. If it is indeed the Poet Laureate who has dejectedly occupied the "intellectual throne" of Arnold's "Scholar-Gipsy," then the Tyrian trader who "shook out more sail" and penetrated the Atlantic via "the western straits" at the end of that poem may also refer us back to "Ulysses" (as well as Herodotus, 4.196).

(46) For example, the vexed Columbus' exceptional violence to a detractor, upon his departure for his third voyage, caused him to forget "his usual self-command," in a "transport of passion ... unusual in his well-governed temper" (abrdgmnt., p. 212).

(47) Compare Edward Dramin on Tennyson's protagonist, in "'Work of Noble Note': Tennyson's 'Ulysses' and Victorian Heroic Ideals," in VLC 20 (1992): 130-131. The publication of the poem's seventy perfect lines in 1842 may have brought the laureateship to the author, but Dramin believes that sentiments very like those attributed to the obdurate protagonist brought the fearless General Gordon to doom in Khartoum. See also Steel's Guardian editorial.

(48) "These hard memorials of our truth to Spain / Clung closer to us for a longer term / Than any friend of ours at Court" (ll. 192-194). Thus Irving's hero: "I will wear them until they [the Spanish sovereigns] shall order them to be taken off, and I will afterwards preserve them as relics and memorials of the reward of my services"-"He did so," his son Fernando's history adds--"I saw them always hanging in his cabinet, and he requested that when he died they might be buried with him!" (Irving, abrdgmnt., p. 265). On the chains Columbus was unyielding.

(49) Guide to the Holy Land, p. 17, cited and trans, in Theodore J. Cachey, Jr., "From Shipwreck to Port: Ruf 189 and the making of the Canzonieri," MLN 120 (2005): 38n21.

(50) The light had become canonic: see "this small Fire" which "Discloses a new World" in Cowley's De Plantis / Of Plants, Bk. 5, ll. 1125, 1121; available online at "The Abraham Cowley Text and Image Archive," http://etext.virginia.edu/kinney/works/Bk5.htm. It never shone on land or sea; so Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, 2 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1942), 1:225.

(51) Luigi Pulci, Morgante Maggiore, trans. Joseph P. Tusiani (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2002), p. 602; 25.130.

(52) Lodovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, trans. William Stewart Rose, ed. Stewart A. Baker and A. Bartlett Giamatti (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968), p 137; Canto 15, st. 22, 23. For Ariosto's demonstrably advanced geographical knowledge, see Donald Frederick Lash, Asia in the Making of Europe, vol. 2, A Century of Wonder (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1970), p. 249.

(53) Orlando Furioso in English Heroical Verse (1591), repr. as Sir John Harington's Translation of Orlando Furioso, ed. Graham Hough (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1962), Bk. 15, st. 14, p. 114.

(54) Torquato Tasso, Jerusalem Delivered, trans. Edward Fairfax (New York: Capricorn Books, c. 1963), Canto 15, sts. 25-32.

(55) See Steel. The Americans' space-shuttle Discovery remembers the HMS Discovery that took Captain Cook to the discovery of Hawaii (Hudson's ship also had this name); another space shuttle is named after the vessel for Cook's first voyage, HMS Endeavour. The names of other spacecraft and probes--Odyssey, Ulysses, Explorer, Mariner--are in the literary-nautical tradition, and the phrase "to break the [gravitational] bonds of earth" and its congener in the pilot John Gillespie Magee's 1941 sonnet "High Flight" are particularly Ulyssean ("Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth ... with silent, lifting mind I've trod / The high untrespassed sanctity of space,/ ... and touched the face of God" (Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations Requested from the Congressional Research Service, ed. Suzy Platt [Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1989], pp. 117-118).

(56) In Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review as quoted by Matthew Rowlinson, "Ideological Moment," p. 266. For Alfred Noyes' narrative poem on Drake--"a veritable resume of the preceding century's accumulated epic modalities"--see Herbert F. Tucker, Epic: Britain's Heroic Muse 1790-1910 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008), chap. 12.

(57) Thomas Babington Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays, 2 vols. (1907; New York: Dutton, 1914), 2:620. A principal Greek freedom-fighter with whom Byron worked was named Odysseus.

(58) Felicia Hemans, Modern Greece, in The Poetical Works, intro. William Michael Rossetti (London: Ward, Lock, n.d.), st. 12. Many poets wrote about the Greeks' struggle--for example, William Cullen Bryant, "The Massacre at Scio."

(59) Mary Shelley, "Note on Hellas," The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. William Michael Rossetti, 3 vols. (London, 1884), 2:420.

(60) With the following two sections, compare William Cullen Bryant's "The Death of Schiller" (1838): "'Tis said, when Schiller's death drew nigh, / The wish possessed his mighty mind, / To wander forth wherever lie / The homes and haunts of humankind. ... How could he rest? Even then he trod / The threshold of the world unknown; / Already, from the seat of God, / A ray upon his garments shone" (ll. 1-15) (The Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant [1903; New York: AMS Press, c. 1972]).

(61) Ramusio, presenting Marco Polo's travels in print, compares the brothers' return to Venice--where they were unrecognizable by their parents--to the return of Ulysses from Troy (Navigazioni e Viaggi, 3:28-29).

(62) Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto 3, st. 72, ll. 1-2, in The Complete Poetical Works of Lord Byron, ed. Jerome J. McGann (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980). This work is hereafter cited as CHP.

(63) "The Long Trail," in Rudyard Kipling's Verse (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1949), pp. 165-166.

(64) Chap. 2 in Sir Richard F. Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Miccah, in 2 vols. (New York: Dover, 1964), 1:16.

(65) In the age of "been there, done that," the successful sale to the public-for astronomic sums--of seats on manned space-flights suggests the demand of the jaded for truly novel destinations may continue to exceed the supply.

(66) Mungo Park as quoted in John Julius Lord Norwich, A Taste for Travel: An Anthology (New York: Knopf, 1987), pp. 37-38.

(67) Americans thought the same way: in ceding Louisiana to the United States France had lost its chance, according to Barlow in his notes for The Columbiad: "one of these clusters of colonies [in North America]"--the English and not the French--"has grown to a powerful empire, giving examples to the universe in most of the great objects which constitute the dignity of nations" (Barlow, Works, 1:823).

(68) Benjamin Franklin, Writings, ed. Albert Henry Smith, 12 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1905-07): 8:614.

(69) Unsunned gold-hoards were thought liable to rust (see. Spenser, Faerie Queene, II.vii.4-6; Jonson, Volpone, I.i; Drayton, Man in the Moon, in The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper, ed. Alexander Chalmers [1810], 4:575; Milton, Comus, ll. 398-399). And see Adam Smith: "[Capital] may be employed in raising, manufacturing, or purchasing goods, and selling them again with a profit. The capital employed in this manner yields no revenue or profit to its employer, while it either remains in his possession, or continues in the same shape. The goods of the merchant yield him no revenue or profit till he sells them for money, and the money yields him as little till it is again exchanged for goods" (An Inquiry into the Nature And Causes of the Wealth of Nations [1776]: Bk. Two: "Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock," chap. 1: "Of the Division of Stock").

(70) De Officiis, trans. Walter Miller (1913; Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1961), 1.4.13; p. 15.

(71) Compare Odysseus in Euripides, Hecuba 317-320: "for my lifetime give me nothing more than what I need; / I ask no more. But as regards my grave, / I hope for honor, since honor in the grave / has eternity to run" (Hecuba, trans. William Arrowsmith [Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1958]).

(72) Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, with Bram Stoker, Dracula, and Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, intro. Stephen King (New York: New American Library, 1978), p. 126.

(73) "My travels were long and the suffering I endured intense. It was late in autumn when I quitted the district where I had so long resided.... Nature decayed around me.... Oh, earth! How often did I imprecate curses on the cause of my being! The mildness of my nature had fled, and all within me was turned to gall and bitterness" (Frankenstein, chap. 16; pp. 133-134).

(74) In Samuel Purchase, ed., Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes, in 20 vols., vol. 13 (3rd Book of the 2nd Part, chaps. 14-17, "Voyages of Henry Hudson") (New York: Macmillan, 1906), p. 410.

(75) So Bush, in Major British Writers, 2:396, on "Ulysses," ll. 54-55; but, Bush adds, "here the accent is on the evening of life."

(76) The desire for the salvation that Jesus promised in John 10.10 ("I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly") goes with that immortality Jesus repeatedly holds out hope for: "eternal life" (John 3.15, 4.36, 5.39, 6.54, 10.28, 12.25, 17.2-3). Thus "Life piled on life / Were all too little" in "Ulysses" (ll. 24-25) echoes the immortalist in "The Two Voices": "'More life and fuller, that I want'" (l. 399), and also the speaker in "Life" who would "pile fresh life on life" (l. 5). The other voice of "The Two Voices" approximates Spenser's Despair, whose depressive accent is heard as well in "The Lotos-Eaters"--Tennyson's antiphon to Byron's always-packing Harold, even as its choric languor casts his melancholic shadow.

(77) De Senectu, De Amicitia, De Divinatione, trans. William Armistead Falconer (1923; London: Heinemann, 1930), p. 83.

(78) Paradise Lost, 10.773 with "Tithon," ll. 20-24, "Why should a man ... beat the roads of life, beyond the goal of ordinance" See the literary pre-history for Adam's Jobean and mortalist longings in Emily R. Wilson, Mocked with Death: Tragic Overliving nom Sophocles to Milton (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2004). On his deathbed Tennyson demanded "my Shakespeare" and had read to him Posthumus' speech of embrace to Imogen, in Cymbeline (5.5.263-264), bidding the soul hang like fruit till the tree die.

(79) Contra De Senectute 20, directly following and as quoted above. Compare a preceding exclamation:

But, ye gods! what is there in human nature that is for long? For grant the utmost limit of life; let us hope to reach the age of Tartessian king--for at Cadiz there was, as I have seen it recorded (Herod. l.163) a certain Arganthonius, who had reigned eighty and had lived one hundred and twenty years--, but to me nothing whatever seems "lengthy" if it has an end; for when that end arrives, then that which was is gone; naught remains but the fruit of good and virtuous deeds. Hours and days, and months and years, go by; the past returns no more, and what is to be we cannot know; but whatever the time given us in which to live, we should therewith be content. (De Senectute 19.69; p. 81)

Length at length must end, so to speak: even, uncannily, at Cadiz.

(80) Convivio, trans. Richard Lansing; text taken from http://dante.ilt.columbia.edu/books/ convivi/convivio4.html#28. (Re Cary's and Longfellow's notes on Inferno, 27, Lat. Convito = Ital. Convivio.)

(81) Convivio, IV.28. Longfellow's note, on Inferno, 27, 81[f.] ("I saw myself arrived, when each one ought / To lower the sails, and coil away the ropes"), reports Dante as quoting Cicero, who says: "Natural death is as it were a haven and rest to us after long navigation. And the noble soul is like a good mariner; for he, when he draws near the port, lowers his sails, and enters it softly with feeble steerage."

(82) See Lactantius and Augustine in "Columbus," ll. 48-54, with Irving, abrdgmnt., pp. 37-42.

(83) This account accords with-and is eloquently supported by-the exceptional insights of Herbert F. Tucker, Tennyson and the Doom of Romanticism (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1988), p. 252. Maud may play with the latent synonymy of the East and West, Indies and Indians, or the interchangeability of sunrise and sunset, at I.xvii.

(84) A classic statement re Ulysses' stasis--as the result of the tension between the poet's private depression and his public morality--is John Robson's "The Dilemma of Tennyson" (1957), repr. in John Killham, ed., Critical Essays on the Poetry of Tennyson (1960; London: Routledge, 1963), pp. 153-163. See p. 159: "The incongruity of 'Ulysses' may be summed up like this: 'Tennyson, the responsible social being, the admirably serious and "committed" Victorian intellectual, is uttering strenuous sentiments in the accent of Tennyson the most un-strenuous, lonely and poignant of poets.'"

(85) Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller (London: Jonathan Cape, 1976), pp. 42-43.

(86) Spenser: Poetical Works, ed. J. C. Smith and E. De Selincourt (1912; New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1970), The Faerie Queene, Bk. I, Canto 9, stanza 47, 1. 8.

(87) At Enoch Arden's welcome death, his story touches base with the stereotypical phrase "Death doses all" ("Ulysses," l. 51) very significantly for our subject:
   For sure no gladlier does the stranded wreck
   See through the gray skirts of a lifting squall
   The boat that bears the hope of life approach
   To save the life despaired of, than he saw
   Death dawning on him, and the close of all.

(Enoch Arden, ll. 824.828; italics added)


An aged, returning Tithonus-Ulysses, this "strong heroic soul"--heart-breakingly unrecognized by his seemingly younger wife--dies with cruciform "arms [spread] abroad / Crying with a loud voice 'A sail! a sail! / I am saved'" (ll. 906-909). This ending subconsciously inverts the "Land, land" of the landfall narrative, after the nocturnal gleam of a fishing-boat on the horizon.
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Title Annotation:Alfred Tennyson
Author:Nohrnberg, James
Publication:Victorian Poetry
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2009
Words:21582
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