I came across Tennyson’s Ulysses being read in a movie last night. Though I remembered that I had read it many years ago, and probably not by choice, it was like I had never heard it before. So I took the opportunity to re-read it, by choice, and it gripped me for a while. Profound in its nature; I never remembered it like I did this time. Time and space can change one’s comprehension: can bend the sound and meaning of words so that the lessons may meet us where we are. The hope is, after much time, our capacity is forged by experience and wisdom, to perhaps see it a little differently, or even a little more clearly…I hope.
Though I understand it is obvious, I still marvel at the fact that something I may have previously read, either as a younger man, or at a particular point in life, could change in meaning, resonance and tone. I have said it before; we see things differently depending on where we are standing. I believe it is a worthy exercise to look back at a piece of literature, maybe art or even a particular space and notice if it matches my memory of the way it was or if that time and space has managed to open up a little more of me. I am not suggesting anyone should live in the past. I just think it is interesting to notice how I may have changed.
That section of Ulysses that seemed so different…
…Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
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.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
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.