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can anyone help me to understand this sentence ?

"Ulysses tells us about how he and his troops are not as young as they used to be with half the energy they used to have, there is still enough left to move them further."

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  • The sentence seems wrong. Can you tell us where this quote comes from? If it is a credible source, please check you have included all the correct punctuation and not missed any words out.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 8:00

2 Answers 2

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This sentence, as you've quoted it, is grammatically incorrect.

I would guess that is should say:

Ulysses tells us that he and his troops are not as young as they used to be, and how, with half the energy they used to have, there is still enough left to move them further.

This would mean that:

  • The troops have half the energy they had when they were younger
  • despite this, they still have enough energy to move on.
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I suspect that this was an attempt to analyze and explain Tennyson's poem "Ulysses , particularly the third stanza and the closing lines, specifically:

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
...
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.

That may provide some useful context.


The given sentence is:

Ulysses tells us about how he and his troops are not as young as they used to be with half the energy they used to have, there is still enough left to move them further.

This uses the historical present As the Wikipedia article says:

Summaries of the narratives (plots) of works of fiction are conventionally presented using the present tense, rather than the past tense. At any particular point of the story, as it unfolds, there is a now and so a past and a future, so whether some event mentioned in the story is past, present, or, future changes as the story progresses. The entire plot description is presented as if the story's now were a continuous present.

Thus the sentence is properly in the present tense, and should not be rephrased into the past.

Ulysses tells us about how ...

"about" is redundant and awkward here, "tells us how" would be better

"us " here is the readers of the poem, who the critic is addressing.

... as they used to be with half the energy they used to have ...

this is a run-on, it might be better as

... as they used to be; with half the energy they used to have ...

The sentence as a whole says that Ulysses tells the audience that he and his men have aged, that they no longer have the abilities that the once had, but that they still have enough will and ability to do more.

This view is indeed expressed in the lines of the poem:

Death closes all: but something ere the end

meaning that Ulysses and his men may yet achieve something, "Some work of noble note"

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, ...
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

meaning that although weakened by time, by age, notable achievement is yet possible.

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