I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breath were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
I'm no poetry-buff, but IMHO, he captures the idea of living an inspired life. Admittedly, I had to read it a few times to get the gist of it, but this poem uses the character of Ulysses to describe what an inspired life is like.
Ulysses starts off by saying "I am a part of all I have met" which poetically says that we are a compilation of our experiences, the people we've interacted with, everything we've learned, our challenges, our successes, etc. The same things that helped create who he is also show him that there's more ahead, "Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world" and there will always be more ahead as we continue to go through life, "whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move."
There should never be an end to our experiences - "how dull it is to pause, to make an end" and those who do would "rust unburnished" and not "shine in use!" I can definitely think of a few periods in my own life where I felt I was rusting unburnished... Ulysses says that just breathing does not mean we're living, rejecting the uninspired definition of life of "as though to breath[e] were life."
I get lost in the middle a bit (feel free to help me out in the comments!), where he talks about "life piled on life", but I like the verse "every hour is saved from that eternal silence" as a reminder that life is short and that every hour could be a valuable "bringer of new things."
The "grey spirit yearning in desire" could easily be any of us, especially when we're feeling trapped in our cubicles/offices. Then he creates this image of us chasing "knowledge like a sinking star," which is less about learning a lot and more about the deep stirring of our spirit to seek out more knowledge (experience, wisdom) as part of our journey in life, and perhaps the driving force in how we approach life.
The last part "beyond the utmost bound of human thought" creates a feeling of unbounded potential; we don't even know what's out there but we're going to search for it.
Quite an inspirational and exciting description. Those poets sure had a way with words :) Thanks, Tennyson.