Ulysses: An Inspiration To Seek Greatness

After returning home from his odyssey, Ulysses has grown dissatisfied with his idle life as king. He complains about the bore of governing and yearns to once more live life to the fullest. Reminiscing about the extensive expeditions of his youth where he attained honour and fame, Ulysses desires to venture further. He has spent three days mulling over his plans to leave his current life behind to explore the unknown. He intends to entrust his son Telemachus, who he feels is a competent leader, with his kingdom. Ulysses then addresses his old mariner friends, declaring that while they have already seen a lot, there is still much to be discovered; and although they are growing weak and old, their spirits remain strong and it is not too late to embark on an epic final journey. He concludes by imploring them to strive for more and to persevere in their pursuits. Ulysses’s monologue is a timeless inspiration for us to seek greatness despite our circumstances.

Ulysses does not let his success or weakness keep him from pursuing more glory and embarking on a final voyage. Although he is already a successful explorer, he notes that “much abides” for him to find. Ulysses’s story is comparable to that of Elon Musk, who did not let his accomplishments prevent him from seeking more. Because of his success with his companies PayPal and Zip2, Musk was already a billionaire and had “become a name”. However, he continued his entrepreneurial endeavours and founded SpaceX and Tesla. His great achievements with these later companies came about because, like Ulysses, he chose to “shine in use” instead of “rust unburnished”. Similarly, J.K. Rowling is an example of someone who did not let her weaknesses prevent her from pursuing greatness, just as Ulysses does not let his old age hold him back. As a single mother on welfare, Rowling was struggling to survive. Publishers had rejected her transcript for Harry Potter countless times, and while many would have given up, she persevered. Rowling was “Made weak by time and fate”, but stayed “strong in will” and continued “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”. Like Ulysses, she chose to pursue her passion and aim for greatness despite the meagre outlook, which led to her success.

Tennyson’s poem offers timeless guidance which continues to serve all of us today. Everyone will reach a point when they may feel that it is useless to seek more, whether it be because they have already triumphed like Elon Musk or are in a difficult position like J.K. Rowling was. “Ulysses” urges us “not to yield” in our pursuit of greatness. Yearning for more and continuing to forge ahead are the means by which society progresses. 

16 August 2021
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