When Tennyson wrote “Ulysses” in 1833, he was grieving the recent loss of his dear friend Arthur Hallam. Yet despite having written the poem in the depths of despair, Tennyson didn’t conceive of “Ulysses” as an elegy. Instead, the poem offers a rousing message meant to inspire its listener to carry on. As Tennyson himself put it, the poem expressed his own “need of going forward and braving the struggle of life.” Perhaps to distance himself from grief, Tennyson chose to write the poem from the perspective of a legendary hero from Greek antiquity: Odysseus, to whom Tennyson refers by his Latin name, Ulysses. Ulysses appears most famously in Homer’s epic poems, which account for the hero’s life from the waning days of the Trojan War through his ten-year journey home to the island of Ithaca. Tennyson picks up where Homer left off, depicting Ulysses “some three suns” (line 29) after his return home, during which time he’s unhappily played the role of king. Restless and contemptuous of the idleness of island life, Ulysses abandons his post and prepares for one last voyage on the sea. Though he may die on the journey, he insists that the pursuit of new knowledge and experience is life-giving.