‘One equal temper of heroic hearts’
How can Bucky Katt be so amazingly self-absorbed and yet so well-read? Today he mentions Ulysses. He’s probably referring to the book by James Joyce, an Irish author, rather than the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, an English author, but I’ll explain both.
Ulysses is the Roman name for Odysseus, the Greek hero who conquered Troy and then spent 10 perilous years finding his way home.
Joyce’s book describes a run-of-the-mill day by Leopold Bloom, who has similarities to Ulysses. “The title alludes to Odysseus (Latinised into Ulysses), the hero of Homer's Odyssey, and establishes a series of parallels between characters and events in Homer's poem and Joyce's novel,” according to Wikipedia.
The book’s stream of consciousness technique makes it challenging for even the most dedicated bibliophiles. It runs more than 250,000 words and has 18 chapters. Its lexicon is merely 30,030 words, again according to Wikipedia. Still, the book is so popular that there’s even a special day dedicated to it, Bloomsday is observed every June 16.
"Ulysses," the 70-line poem by Tennyson, was published in 1842. It’s a strong example of dramatic monologue, in which only one person speaks and gives insights into his or her mood or character. In this case, Ulysses is suffering from a wicked case of wanderlust; instead of ruling Ithaca, he’d much prefer to take his fellow mariners out to sea again.
I read the poem in either high school or college but reread it today – and was glad I did. Having recently had to formally admit to yet another year slipping by, I can relate to the final lines:
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,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
If the last line sounds particularly familiar, maybe it’s because Sen. Edward Kennedy used it in a speech to the 1980 Democratic national convention.
The entire poem may be found at http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~keith/poems/Ulysses.html.
James Joyce in 1915
Photo by Alex Ehrenzwieg courtesy of Wikipedia
Head of Odysseus from a Greek 2nd century BC marble group
Caption and photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson by George Frederic Watts
Photo of painting courtesy of Wikipedia