Reappearing historically in the poetry of numerous writers, Ulysses is a classical figure. Written in 1833, and revised for publication in 1842 in the two-volume "Poems", Tennyson creates his idea of an old Ulysses by using the ancient hero of Homer's Odyssey, and the medieval hero of Dante's Inferno. Translated from Greek ("Odysseus") to Roman, Ulysses represents the aging hero feeling that there is no point in staying home "by this still hearth" with his "aged" wife. He is bored of giving out rewards and punishments for the people in his kingdom, and "cannot rest from travel" but feels the need to live life to the fullest and use every opportunity he can to enjoy it. He loved all his experiences sailing the seas, and considers himself a symbol for all the other adventurers in the world. Ulysses has uncovered many different people and societies during his travels. In the Trojan War, he was exposed to the "delight of battle", and believes that his travels and encounters have shaped the person he now is ("I am a part of all that I have met"). He has found the meaning of life through adventures, and believes that his past actions are a prologue and guide to the future, that they are not simple old memories. (ll. 19-21). He does not wish "to rust unburnished, not to shine in use", since to remain in one place is like to pretend that all there is to life is the simple act of breathing. .
Indeed, Ulysses wishes "to follow knowledge like a sinking star" and develop his wisdom and learning for all time, making a journey of the mind and not the body. The sailors he speaks of have all passed over. He speaks of his son Telemachus, who will take his place as ruler when he leaves to go traveling again. He says: "This is my son, mine own Telemachus, to whom I leave the scepter and the isle", speaking highly of Telemachus" abilities as a ruler, his good sense, dedication and devotion to the gods, although he does not admire his son.