Word Warrior Wednesday (on a friday): ’tis not too late to seek a newer world

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Since it is the first week of January, I had planned to write something about the new year. For many years, my friend Julia and I have sent each other the end of Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses around new years. I loved the Victorian pathos in the language, and I loved the optimism that it contained. The aging Ulysses is not giving up. He goes out there, knowing whatever there may be, he will never yield. Of course, as teenagers, we totally related to this.

Then, in my first year of undergraduate, my English professor destroyed it for me. She said the poem was ironic, it was making fun of Ulysses as a rocking chair hero, who still thinks he’s got it, but he ain’t that hot no more (not exactly her words). Conveniently, she forgot to tell us,  that research is actually divided on the topic. Of course I believed her at the time, because she would know, right? So, for many years, the poem that I had loved so much was still beautiful, but, eh, I knew that it was not what I thought it meant. Then, I decided that I wouldn’t care. I knew enough about literature to know that the author is dead and that I, as the reader matter. Done. (Then I found out that there are more people like me, who see the poem in a non-ironic light).

Anyone with IBD will not be a person of blind optimism. Too much has happened to them, they don’t buy it. What they will buy, however, is that as banged up creatures, full of flaws, pain and stories, they still matter. They still can do things, they won’t give up. We strive, seek, find and never yield. Here is the poem:

Come, my friends,
‘T is 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.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
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.

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