The Wanderer and The Seafarer: Spirituality and Loneliness as the Themes of the Poems

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Both the Wanderer and Seafarer have themes of Spiritual reflection, dissatisfaction, and the loneliness that comes with being far from civilization both physically and metaphorically. In the seafarer, God is presented in contradicting ways. On one hand, God is the cure to the speakers restlessness, portrayed as being above earthly pleasures, (the idea that when all is said and done, you can’t take your gold and glory to the afterlife, only your deeds and self). On the other hand, God is this being who deems humans as powerless, and is similar to the portrayal of fate in Anglo-Saxon culture.

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“Indeed there is not so proud-spirited a man in the world, nor so generous of gifts, nor so bold in his youth, nor so brave in his deeds nor so dear to his lord, that he never in his seafaring has a worry, as to what his Lord will do to him.” (39-43)

In lines 39 through 43, Gods part in his world is as mentioned before, being portrayed in the very Anglo-Saxon sense of causing an unchangeable fate and being in control of a persons life. In the Seafarer, he is split between his need to travel and his need for companionship. A source of relief for his dissatisfaction is through God however the text prevalently describes his suffering with lonelines and sadness, and the imagery of the world’s elements. The weather is like a reflection of his state of mind. His sorrowful mindset blinds him of what Spring has to give metaphorically. He interprets the world around him through his desolate journey across the sea.

“How I have suffered grim sorrow at heart, have known in the ship many worries, the terrible tossing of the waves where the anxious night watch often took me at the ship's prow, when it tossed near the cliffs.” (4-8)

Right in the beginning of the poem, He is already describing his path as alarmingly dangerous. “The terrible tossing of waves.” , “near the cliffs”. It creates an image of a deep instability within the speaker. Meanwhile, The Wanderer portrays themes of sadness because he is in exile not by choice and is in misery over losing his respected lord and now travels over the sea faraway from home. The Wanderer is taunted by happy remembrances and although he feels trapped in his mind, he believes that wise men must never say their feelings of outloud.

“Often the lone-dweller waits for favor, mercy of the Measurer, though he unhappy across the seaways long time must stir with his hands the rime-cold sea.” (1-4)

This is evidence that he was most likely exiled against his will. “Therefore glory-seekers, oft bind fast in breast-chamber a dreary mind. So must I my heart – often wretched with cares, deprived of homeland, far from kin – fasten with fetters.” (17-21) This is the speakers way of telling whoever he is writing to the importance of keeping sad feelings locked away. Instead of saying he is sad he says, “my heart-often wretched with cares.”

“He knows who tries it how cruel is sorrow, a bitter companion, to the one who has few concealers of secrets, beloved friends.” (30-32)

The Speaker personifies sorrow as a “bitter companion” to emphasize how alone he really is, and that sorrow is not a real companion but rather an unfortunate one he can’t simply get rid of. Similar to that of the Seafarer, The speaker in the wanderer uses nature as an outlet for his mental state and also his perspective on forces out of his hands like the destructiveness of fates hand in peoples lives.

“When the friendless man awakens again, he sees before him fallow waves, sea-birds bathing, wings spreading, rime and snow falling mingled with hail.” (46-49)

The waves and birds become the antithesis to all of what makes The Wanderer happy with his life. They symbolize a freedom and happiness he doesn’t have in exile. 

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