Form: 76 lines of blank verse.
Tennyson wrote the first version of this poem (as "Tithon") in 1833, only completing it in 1859, when W. M. Thackeray asked him for a poem for the Cornhill Magazine, which he was editing. Thackeray published it in the February 1860, issue. [Other discussions of this poem]
1. In Greek mythology Tithonus was a mortal beloved by Aurora, the goddess of the dawn. She begged Zeus to give him eternal life, but forgot to ask also for eternal youth. As Tithonus withered, he shrank into a grasshopper.
2. In Tennyson's 1833 volume of poems, "Tithon" was a pendant to "Ulysses." Why? What do the two poems share? In what way might they both serve as the poet's explorations of death? Why do you suppose Tennyson separated the two in a subsequent volume?
3. One critic says that this poem expresses anything but a simple death wish: "If the speaker wants to die, it is because he loves life too well to submit to death in life." Come again?
Last modified 7 September 2003