In the poem, through a monologue, Ulysses carries out his last journey and reflects back on his eventful life. It seem as if Ulysses is trying to justify his actions and explain his passions for travelling and adventure and that being his hungry heart.
From the first line of the poem, it becomes noticeable that Ulysses is bored and unexcited by his current position, It little profits that an idle king. His statement reveals that personally Ulysses gains no profit from being a king and that he would rather return to his travels and active life.
From Ulysses thoughts we can sympathise with him and see that he misses his adrenaline pumping past, his good and bad times. He talks about suffering, being alone, with company, on land and on sea, and this highlights the difference between his engaging past and idle present. He talks about leaving a mark, a memory on everybody he came across I am a part of all I have met, his ability to do so makes him a positive person and someone who is looked up to.
Tennyson uses Ulysses as a metaphor to express his grief and longing. Just like Ulysses longs for his old life that had meaning to him, Tennyson longs for his life with Arthur in it. Through the explanation of Ulysses voyage, Tennyson expresses his own grief, but shows optimistic thoughts too How dull is it to make a pause, to make an end. This declaration shows his determination to embrace life and to live it to the full.
The poem also contains a strong element of pride and Ulysses talks about his life with a lot of pride, but also when he states This is my son, mine own Telemachus. The double acceptance shows Ulysses is proud of his son, but it could also be interpreted as a sign of unbelief and uncertainty. The fact Ulysses states that Telemachus is his son twice, could mean he needs reassurance that this grown man is in fact his son, that has grew up to be a king without his fathers presence.
Throughout the poem, Ulysses thoughts alter, but only slightly. At the beginning he seems determined to return to his adventures I cannot rest from travel, but as the poem progresses, his acceptance of his circumstances occurs and he prepares to set off for his last sail.
Another change that that can be see towards the end of the poem is the change in Ulysses as he focuses more on emotions rather then on settings, this change shows that Ulysses journey is over and he needs to express his feeling one last time before he dies.
The main thing that does not alter at the end of the poem, but is evident at the beginning is Ulysses hunger for adventure and constant fresh experience. His physical strength might be fading but his heart still wants to enter into an another voyage, that being death. When he says his last words To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield he still has a positive prospect and shows he does not fear death.