Tennyson, Ulysses and 007

Odysseus/Ulysses and crew

Odysseus/Ulysses and crew. 3rd C AD Mosaic from Thugga, Tunisia, Le Musee National Du Bardo

Our poet for the Third Term in the Garner Homeschool is Alfred, Lord Tennyson.   We have a few poems to read each week, and then we are scheduled to spend the last few weeks of the term reading Idylls of the King.

The poems for the first week,  Ulysses, and The Lotos-Eaters  hark back to Homer’s Odyssey.  If you are quite well-educated, or remember your fourth grade Roman and Greek mythology, then you’re already party to the fact that Ulysses is the Latin form of the Greek name Odysseus.

Poetry is scheduled after lunch on Monday afternoons, and generally we sit sedately in our school room and read together.  With our epics, Beowulf and Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, we listened to an Audiobook recording while reading along with the same translation.  With The Ballad of the White Horse, The Daughter and I took turns reading aloud.  But looking at these poems, I decided we needed a little testosterone in the room.  So, we intruded on Mr. Garner in his office, uninvited, and proceeded to read aloud to him.  Mr. Garner is an amazing good sport isn’t he?  Well, we all liked UlyssesThe Lotos-eaters took somewhat longer to get through, but we found both poems delightful to read, beautifully descriptive and the point of each rather more obvious than I had reason to hope.  In fact, as I sat in Mr. Garner’s office pondering Ulysses,  I realized that I had heard the closing lines, somewhere and recently:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength
which in old days

Moved earth and heaven,
that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I had.  They were read by the incomparable Dame Judy Dench, in her role as M, in the recent 007 movie, Skyfall, in which an aging Bond has the heroic heart and the strong will required to defeat the enemy.  We have missed the last few movies in the franchise, but caught this one last month when it became available to stream on Amazon Prime.  Here’s a clip:

 

Alone again, naturally.  Detail of an Attic Red-figure skyphos, 440 BC, from Chiusi,

Penelope and son, Telemachus. Alone again, naturally.
Detail of an Attic Red-figure skyphos, 440 BC, from Chiusi,

Another excerpt exposes the difficulty in coming home after long, arduous journeys.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world
whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

Tennyson places Ulysses/Odysseus at the shore line, scanning the waves with longing, remembering the glory days, and urging his companions to join him on a final quest for adventure, content to leave his kingdom in the hands of his son, Telemachus.

Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

As for Penelope, the long-suffering, faithful, patient, wise and beautiful wife (Who also weaves! Seriously, what more could you want?), well, there’s nary a mention.  I wonder if a poetess somewhere has written a reply to Tennyson’s Ulysses.  Perhaps entitled  Penelope’s Lament.  After waiting a decade or so for Ulysses/Odysseus to get himself home from the Trojan war, and then looking the other way at certain of his Circian detours, if I were Penelope, I’d be seriously annoyed that he’s thinking of leaving home again.  Just saying.  Perhaps I’ll put pencil to the task.  Penelope’s Revengeor perhaps Ode to a Narcissistic Homerian Derelict Shirker Antihero…

While pondering Penelope, and listening to Pandora, Loreena McKennitt’s plaintive voice dawned on my consciousness singing, of all things, Penelope’s Song.  A kinder, gentler approach to Ulysses/Odysseus than I was considering…Long as the day in the summertime, Deep as the wine dark sea, I’ll keep your heart with mine, til you come to me….quite lovely.  Lyrics below the You Tube link.

“Penelope’s Song”

Now that the time has come
Soon gone is the day
There upon some distant shore
You’ll hear me say

Long as the day in the summer time
Deep as the wine dark sea
I’ll keep your heart with mine.
Till you come to me.

There like a bird I’d fly
High through the air
Reaching for the sun’s full rays
Only to find you there

And in the night when our dreams are still
Or when the wind calls free
I’ll keep your heart with mine
Till you come to me

Now that the time has come
Soon gone is the day
There upon some distant shore
You’ll hear me say

Long as the day in the summer time
Deep as the wine dark sea
I’ll keep your heart with mine.
Till you come to me

I’ve found great delight in (at least) two other Tennyson poems, and shared them in these posts:  C is for Cheeseburger Bird, and Slippery Rock Falls.

 

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2 responses to “Tennyson, Ulysses and 007

  1. Pingback: Singing Tennyson | Garner Goings On·

  2. Pingback: Frail, but of force to withstand | Garner Goings On·

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