Within The Lotos Eaters and Choric Song, Tennyson portrays a life free from toil, where the mariners are in a constant dream-like state. The mariners resolve to stop wandering the seas, and settle in the serene, carefree world. Contrastingly, Ulysses wants to continue exploring the world and yearns for more adventure. Ulysses would consider relaxing as a waste of time, he constantly requires a new challenge so he can be reassured that his reputation is still intact.
Tennyson provides a “tempting and seductive vision of a life free from toil” within The Lotos Eaters and Choric Song but it has been interpreted that the “mariners may be deceiving themselves into believing the seductive version of life, when really they are succumbing to the hypnotic power of the flower and they are living in a world of appearances” this point is very valid as everything “seems” within the play, nothing the mariners can see through their dreamy eyes is actual reality.
This suggests that once the mariners stop eating the Lotos Flowers they will be brought back down to earth and realise that they have been enchanted and cannot really be happy living a life completely free from responsibility. However, it could be suggested that Tennyson is showing how “man’s inner spirit is telling him that tranquillity and calmness offers the only joy, and yet he is fated to toil and wander the earth” this helps to justify the mariners vow to spend the rest of their lives relaxing and reclining in the “hollow Lotos lands” Furthermore, it could be suggested that The Lotos Eaters and Choric Song present Tennyson “desire to escape the rigours and realities of Victorian life” as Tennyson creates a lush mood within the poem and sets up a harmonious and complementary relationship between the natural landscape and the effect caused by the Lotos Flowers.
Tennyson does this by using a variety of techniques such as alliteration, assonance and sibilance to create a hypnotic, dream-like mood. However, it could be interpreted that Tennyson uses this poem to show we may all long for a “carefree and relaxed existence, but few people could truly be happy without any challenges to overcome” this links to the Victorians idea of life, as they always strived to be the best as everything like Ulysses.
Within Ulysses it has been suggested that Tennyson is showing “an ageing man finding solace in the contemplation of death” in some respects this is true as Ulysses becomes more determined to live his life to the full because he knows death is imminent. Not only this, but Ulysses takes comfort in being old as he knows that if the gulfs “wash them down” he has already lived his life to the fullest. However, it could be interpreted that Tennyson is showing Ulysses anger against death as he wants to see more of the world but he won’t be able to experience everything due to his old age. Furthermore it could be suggested that Ulysses can never be truly fulfilled as he just keeps yearning for new experience after new experience, so he will always be dissatisfied with his life.
It has been suggested that Tennyson uses Ulysses to express his own “need of going forward and braving the struggle of life” this explains Ulysses continued concern with living his life to the full and not thinking about his imminent death, but instead looking at everything he can achieve within the time he has got left. It could be interpreted that Ulysses is a character that Tennyson admires, as he constantly also wants “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield” rather than becoming a person who dwells on the past Tennyson wants to be able to look to the future. However, it could be suggested that Ulysses is actually a character you would not like to become, as he can never be happy with what he’s got but always wants something better which means leaving those who care about him behind.
These poems were both set during the industrial revolution where the Victorians shared characteristics with Ulysses of having a constant desire to reach beyond the limits. Contrastingly the Lotos Eaters and Choric Song present a life of “slumber” rather than “toil” where the mariner s abandon “the sources of substantive meaning in life and the potential for heroic accomplishment” to just a live a carefree and relaxed existence. Overall, both poems show very contrasting views on how we should live our lives.
Ulysses show the extremes of living life to the fullest and never having a rest, whereas, The Lotos Flower and Choric Song shows the other end of the spectrum which involves relaxing and taking part in nothing that involves hard-work. Neither of these ways of life work out, as both Ulysses and the mariners leave loved ones behind, furthermore Ulysses can never be happy with what he’s got and the mariners are not actually living in the real world. This proves that you need to have the mind-set of both poems, and balance work and rest equally to ensure you achieve everything you want but that you can enjoy life. Bibliography
Anon., 2013. Stong Men and the Contours of Manliness. s.l.:s.n. Anon., n.d. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/tennyson/ulysses.html. [Online]. Johnston, C., 2012. The English Review.
Notes, C., 2013. The Lotos Eaters and Choric Song. s.l.:s.n. Notes, C., n.d. Ulysses. s.l.:s.n.
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