Tennyson's "Ulysses": I Hate My Living, Useful Son


Who’s excited by an old, bored king?
Nodding by an old, boring fire, near some old dull hills,
Wife equally old, governing a bunch of —
love you guys, but ingrates —
Who like to sleep, and overstock their larders, and hear no stories.
Cow-counters. Fine. I traveled too hard, too far, too wide, to
be any good at resting now: All times I have enjoyed
Much, suffered much, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and —
“Seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” and all that,
Tannhauser Gate: I am become a name;
For always picking up and packing out, hungry-hearted,
I’ve been a lot of places, not just here.
Here’s fine. But other places too,
and not just as an overnighter; I’m welcome elsewhere,
and with unlike people, battle-fragrant,
From here to Troy and every place that’s in between.
I’m as much Troy as not; as much here as not; as much them as you.
I’ve done a lot — enough that all my doings frame
the doings no one’s found, nor committed,
all my movements ring round the moves I haven’t made yet.

At any rate: I’m off, fuckos!
Sick of rotting-rust and uselessness and you!
You breathe throughout the day, and say ‘enough’! To which:
Okay, that’s great, for you;
I’d rather die than stockpile pantry-hours
as you do, time-hoarders, sick of stacking up
one daytime after another, it fucking sucks,
I’m thrilled you’re gently happy, but as it happens,
the older I get, the grayer, the more bent I get,
the more I want to stretch out like a bow and fucking shoot
until I’m out of reach of time and human thought. So: Bye!!!!

         This is my son, my Telemachus,
Who I’ve decided to let be king after me, so let’s not hear any grumbling—
I honestly do love him! Who couldn’t love someone so competent?
So hardworking, so patient, so plodding, at the mind-numbing
work of softening everybody, sanding them down
into usefulness and obedience. A sinless boy!
No one can accuse him of excitement; the cleanest hands in Ithaca he’s got.
What else is there to say? What’s there to protest?
He does what’s expected of him, follows all the rules,
Never gives me reason for complaint.
(You’d almost think he wasn’t mine! But he is.)
Kid just loves to stick around. Let’s let him!

         Let go boom the bye-bye! Make fat the sails,
Pitch up those long black waves. BRING OUT THE BOYS,
Back in town, then ever out of it — give every town to each,
Those thunder-frolic boys, more boys than my own,
A town for every boy and a boy for every town,
Old as hell and free of everything—you and I are old;
yes, but honorably so, earned every inch of years,
and death will wrap our lengths into a scarf and neatly fold,
but there’s still time for interesting moves, neatly done.
Give disappointing kingships to our too-respectful sons!
Set the rocks in motion, turn on the lights:
Let the day drip out: the moon roll up: the deep
is shouting, ready for something absolutely bitchin’. Come on, lads,
Let old age come; we’ll seek out younger times.
Let’s all fuck off from shore!
Commence the boys’ night last of all!
I want to wrestle with old friends and disrespect my fucking kid
We’re at sea now, right? Christ, I hate him,
I’d rather drown in Spanish seas than see his face.
Put every man in Greece, in Egypt, Thrace,
between him and me, and I still won’t sleep easy,
call Achilles — wake up him — remember him?
Fuck, I loved that guy. I loved him! Somebody call —
wrench him out of Hell and tell him that we’re gonna fight.

I hope that fucker kills me, I hope he pulls my shoulder
right out the socket like a soft banana from the skin,
yanks me out of Telemachus — fuck that kid — Christ, fuck him.

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