Though much is taken, much abides

You might be familiar with this bit that was read eloquently by M in Skyfall-

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.

-Tennyson (Ulysses)

Ulysses has returned to his kingdom, Ithaca, having had a long, eventful journey home after fighting in the Trojan War. But he craves for the glories and adventures that now seem left behind.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides. At points, it feels the best may be behind us and the difficulties lying ahead look like a chasm unknown. While the heart quivers, a little part of it wants to see what lies across. We are not now that strength which in old days. The muscle is not the same perhaps else we wouldn’t have thought twice about making the leap. One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. Resolve still holds, though wizened by time & fate. We shall striveseekfind and not yield.

Lovely poem and movie (of course, Daniel Craig’s presence helps). I find many lines of this poem very close to my heart-

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

’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.

And see the great Achilles whom we knew!

Here’s the essence of it as provided by Sparknotes (read the full thing if you can)-

“Ulysses,” like many of Tennyson’s other poems, deals with the desire to reach beyond the limits of one’s field of vision and the mundane details of everyday life. Ulysses is the antithesis of the mariners in “The Lotos-Eaters,” who proclaim “we will no longer roam” and desire only to relax amidst the Lotos fields. In contrast, Ulysses “cannot rest from travel” and longs to roam the globe (line 6). Like the Lady of Shallot, who longs for the worldly experiences she has been denied, Ulysses hungers to explore the untraveled world.

And that makes Tennyson one of my favorite poets. I hope we do see the Achilles.

2 thoughts on “Though much is taken, much abides”

  1. The quest for the unknown has been the catalyst for all the progress made by mankind. The road less travelled is the way forward for all of us and then shall only we be liberated and evolved in true sense.
    Nice post. Looking forward to more ….

  2. What lines! I have always loved Tennyson and your explanation to it made him all the more alluring. I’m loving your blog – in fact have bookmarked them. At a critical point in my life – single, 30-year woman pestered with marriage proposals from family and relatives – your blog has rejuvenated me and my lust for travel. Amazing work! India is beautiful through your lens 🙂

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