"Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In Tennyson's poem, the hero Ulysses (Odysseus) has returned from his voyages but longs for new adventures. Read the text here.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. idle
    not in action or at work
    It little profits that an idle king,
    By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
    Match'd with an aged wife...
  2. hearth
    an area near a fireplace extending into a room
    It little profits that an idle king,
    By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
    Match'd with an aged wife...
  3. barren
    providing no shelter or sustenance
    It little profits that an idle king,
    By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
    Match'd with an aged wife...
  4. unequal
    lacking the requisite qualities or resources to meet a task
    ...I mete and dole
    Unequal laws unto a savage race,
    That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
  5. hoard
    save up as for future use
    ...I mete and dole
    Unequal laws unto a savage race,
    That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
  6. lees
    the sediment from fermentation of an alcoholic beverage
    I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
    Life to the lees
  7. scud
    run or move very quickly or hastily
    All times I have enjoy'd
    Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
    That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
    Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
    Vext the dim sea: I am become a name
  8. vex
    disturb, especially by minor irritations
    All times I have enjoy'd
    Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
    That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
    Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
    Vext the dim sea: I am become a name
  9. peer
    a person who is of equal standing with another in a group
    Much have I seen and known; cities of men
    And manners, climates, councils, governments,
    Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
    And drunk delight of battle with my peers
  10. margin
    the boundary line or area immediately inside the boundary
    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.
  11. burnish
    polish and make shiny
    How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
    To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
  12. eternal
    continuing forever or indefinitely
    ...but every hour is saved
    From that eternal silence, something more,
    A bringer of new things...
  13. yearn
    desire strongly or persistently
    And this gray spirit yearning in desire
    To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
    Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
  14. bound
    the greatest possible degree of something
    And this gray spirit yearning in desire
    To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
    Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
  15. scepter
    a ceremonial or emblematic staff
    This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
    To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
  16. discern
    detect with the senses
    This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
    To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
    Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
    This labour
  17. prudence
    discretion in practical affairs
    ...by slow prudence to make mild
    A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
    Subdue them to the useful and the good.
  18. rugged
    very difficult; severely testing stamina or resolution
    ...by slow prudence to make mild
    A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
    Subdue them to the useful and the good.
  19. subdue
    put down by force or authority
    ...by slow prudence to make mild
    A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
    Subdue them to the useful and the good.
  20. sphere
    a particular environment or walk of life
    Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
    Of common duties, decent not to fail
    In offices of tenderness, and pay
    Meet adoration to my household gods,
    When I am gone.
  21. office
    activities assigned to or expected of a person or group
    Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
    Of common duties, decent not to fail
    In offices of tenderness, and pay
    Meet adoration to my household gods,
    When I am gone.
  22. port
    where people and merchandise can enter or leave a country
    There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
    There gloom the dark, broad seas.
  23. mariner
    a man who serves as a sailor
    My mariners,
    Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
    That ever with a frolic welcome took
    The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
    Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old
  24. toil
    work hard
    My mariners,
    Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
    That ever with a frolic welcome took
    The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
    Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old
  25. unbecoming
    not in keeping with accepted standards of what is proper
    Death closes all: but something ere the end,
    Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
    Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
  26. strive
    to exert much effort or energy
    Death closes all: but something ere the end,
    Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
    Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
  27. wane
    grow smaller
    The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
    The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
    Moans round with many voices.
  28. smite
    inflict a heavy blow on, with the hand, a tool, or a weapon
    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.
  29. furrow
    a slight depression in the smoothness of a surface
    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.
  30. abide
    dwell
    Tho' much is taken, much abides...
  31. heroic
    having qualities appropriate for brave figures
    ...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
  32. yield
    give in, as to influence or pressure
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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