Tag Archives: Alfred Lord Tennyson

Maria Judnick: A favorite poem

Ulysses
Alfred Lord Tennyson

I chose the final line of this poem as my “favorite quote” for my high school yearbook.  At the time, I was elated that the world of literature was slowly opening up to me through my AP English classes and felt a keen desire to “strive” for further knowledge as an English major in college (and later, as a graduate student).  Now, as a high school teacher who teaches “The Odyssey” to her own students, I’ve tried to keep that same one line motto in mind as I engage my students with their own discoveries about English.

Maria Judnick, 26
San Jose

Ulysses

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

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, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
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. He works his work, I mine. Continue reading

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Sandip Bhattacharya: A favorite poem

Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Whenever some says Poetry, this is the first poem that springs to mind.  It is one of the poems that we had to memorize in school. There are certainly other poems that are richer in imagery or more sublime which I might count among my favorites, but this is one poem that immediately manages to evoke an era, tell a story and inspire, with its use of tight rhythmic language. Any time I read this poem, it takes me right back those classrooms – hot afternoons, studious kids bent over their desks, teachers droning on, and me slipping off quietly to fight the Battle of Balaclava.

Sandip Bhattacharya
San Jose

Charge of the Light Brigade

I
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
II
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
III
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.
IV
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sab’ring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.

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