I am become a name

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Thomas1, Apr 14, 2009.

  1. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska

    I would like to know whether become means receive in the following lines of Ulysses by Alfred Tennyson:
    [...] on shore, and when
    Thro' scudding
    drifts the rainy Hyades
    Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;

  2. Whizbang Senior Member

    English - American
    The meaning is pretty cryptic. But "become" does not mean "receive" in this instance, even if I am not completely sure what the author intends to say.

    My best guess is that the narrator is saying that his experiences have transformed him from a mere man, whose name is of no consequence, to someone whose name is well known. A myth, not just a man, and in some fashion the man is thus lost in the myth.

    But I am far from certain that I've interpreted the author's intent.
  3. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    Well German bekommen--obviously cognate with become--does mean "to receive," so your guess is certainly not ill founded; however, the OED gives contains no definition whatsoever close to "to receive" for become.

    Moreover, given the context I think it certainly means "I became a name," where "is become" is an archaic use of the verb "to be" as an auxiliary (c.f. "The Lord is come."). That is:

    I am become a name. = I became a name.

    So in short, I agree with Whizbang. :D
  4. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Thank you! :)
    This is more or less what I meant, i.e. that he's received from an unspeciied source a new (more significant) name/identity. Well, it is surely much clearer now!

    Brian, I think that I am become would be closer to I have become though it may not be that important here.

  5. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    You're absolutely right--I was just trying to show that "am become" = past tense of "become."
  6. Wyylie New Member

    San Diego
    English - American
    I expect that the usage, "I am become" was widespread during Tennyson's era and certainly common in the KJ Bible. I believe this one to be simple: I have become famous, my name is a household world. It is the tension between the name he was and those that know not me (my name) that later becomes important. Actually, he doesn't think much of himself in his dotage because he is no longer able to act in consonance with the heroic idea of himself. But that, in the end, is not something he is really trying to restore: he recognizes that he can't. (If you think of the importance of the name of G-d in the Torah, I don't think you're going wrong, but that's for a full critique.)
  7. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Thanks Wyylie and welcome to the forums. :)

    There's one thing that's a bit peculiar about Tennyson's wording to me. He used become transitively, to my understanding, and he employed it with the auxiliary "be", which is reserved for intransitive verbs, as far as I remember, cf. the Lord is come.

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