He was influenced by Romantic poets (Shelly and Keats). He had a depression after the death of a schoolmate, and he wrote a poem about him. In the last part of his life he became a laureate poet and the spoken man of his time. In his poetry we can see an attempt of reconciliation between Romanticism and Victorian values, between individual freedom and social duty, between feelings and personal responsibility. Because this attempt of reconciliation is difficult to realize, his poetry is pervaded by a sense of melancholy. He has great technical abilities, but his poems can appear remote to the modern reader.
1. Odysseus of Homer: the voyage to coming back to Ithaca
2. 26th canto of Hell of Dante: he tells the story of his last voyage
Tennyson chose the situation in the middle: Ulysses is in Ithaca and planes his last voyage. Ulysses is old but he is bored by his life in Ithaca, he is in a state of torpor and he always thinks of the triumphs of the past and he wishes new experiences and knowledge. He also feels the burden of being a king and the responsibility towards his son Telemacus. He is old age and he is aware that death is coming near but he wants to do a last voyage in order to be again glorious and heroic.
1. Heroism, because the voyage is finalized to the heroism; it is connected with the moral values of Victorian Age. Heroism in the sense of honourable way of behaving.
2. The anxiety of Ulysses reflected the unsatisfaction of the Victorians under the general optimism.
3. The desire of the “new” as the Victorians had the desire to discover new lands and the desire of renewal in a period of mechanisation and social problems.
4. The death, as the end of all doubts also the Victorian Age was an age of doubts about man and life originated by scientific theory like Darwinism (sense of melancholy and sadness)