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The Wanderer and the Seafarer
Transcript of The Wanderer and the Seafarer
MnE version - I recommend listening only.
Beaston, L. (2005). The Wanderer’s courage. Neophilologus, 89, 119–137.
Boer, R. C. (1903). Wanderer und Seefahrer. Zeitschr. f. deutsche PhiIiIogie 35, 1-28.
Echard, S. (2012). The Wanderer. Available from: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/sechard/oewand.htm
Echard, S. (2012). The Seafarer. Available from: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/sechard/oeseaf.htm
Gordon, I. L. (1954). Traditional themes in the Wanderer and the Seafarer. The Review of English Studies, 5(17), 1-13.
Lawrence, W. W. (1902). The Wanderer and the Seafarer. The Journal of Germanic Philology, 4(4), 460-480.
Lippiatt, G. (2009). The Wandering Pilgrim: Christian Asceticism in The Wanderer and The Seafarer (Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Military Institute).
Lumiansky, R. M. (1950). The dramatic structure of the old English Wanderer. Neophilologus, 34(1), 104-112.
Prins, A. A. (1964). The Wanderer (and the Seafarer). Neophilologus, 48(1), 237-251.
Salmon, V. (1960). "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer", and the Old English Conception of the Soul. The Modern Language Review, 55(1), 1-10.
Sharma, M. (2012). Heroic Subject and Cultural Substance in The Wanderer. Neophilologus, 96(4), 611-629.
Stevick, R. D. (1965). The Text and the Composition of The Seafarer. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 332-336.
The Way out
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Click the links below for Slocum and Lehmann's word by word translations and grammar notes:
The Seafarer in MnE and OE
The Wanderer in MnE
The Wanderer in OE
“Oft him anhaga are gebideð,
metudes miltse, þeah þe he modcearig
geond lagulade longe sceolde
hreran mid hondum hrimcealde sæ,
wadan wræclastas. Wyrd bið ful aræd!”
Swa cwæð eardstapa, earfeþa gemyndig,
wraþra wælsleahta, winemæga hryre:
“Oft ic sceolde ana uhtna gehwylce
mine ceare cwiþan. Nis nu cwicra nan
þe ic him modsefan minne durre
sweotule asecgan. Ic to soþe wat
þæt biþ in eorle indryhten þeaw,
þæt he his ferðlocan fæste binde,
healde his hordcofan, hycge swa he wille.
Ne mæg werig mod wyrde wiðstondan,
ne se hreo hyge helpe gefremman.
Forðon domgeorne dreorigne oft
in hyra breostcofan bindað fæste;
swa ic modsefan minne sceolde,
oft earmcearig, eðle bidæled,
freomægum feor feterum sælan,
siþþan geara iu goldwine minne
hrusan heolstre biwrah, ond ic hean þonan
wod wintercearig ofer waþema gebind,
sohte sele dreorig sinces bryttan,
hwær ic feor oþþe neah findan meahte
þone þe in meoduhealle min mine wisse,
oþþe mec freondleasne frefran wolde,
weman mid wynnum. Wat se þe cunnað,
hu sliþen bið sorg to geferan,
þam þe him lyt hafað leofra geholena.
Warað hine wræclast, nales wunden gold,
ferðloca freorig, nalæs foldan blæd.
Gemon he selesecgas ond sincþege,
hu hine on geoguðe his goldwine
wenede to wiste. Wyn eal gedreas!
Forþon wat se þe sceal his winedryhtnes
leofes larcwidum longe forþolian,
ðonne sorg ond slæp somod ætgædre
earmne anhogan oft gebindað.
þinceð him on mode þæt he his mondryhten
clyppe ond cysse, ond on cneo lecge
honda ond heafod, swa he hwilum ær
in geardagum giefstolas breac.
ðonne onwæcneð eft wineleas guma,
gesihð him biforan fealwe wegas,
baþian brimfuglas, brædan feþra,
hreosan hrim ond snaw, hagle gemenged.
þonne beoð þy hefigran heortan benne,
sare æfter swæsne. Sorg bið geniwad,
þonne maga gemynd mod geondhweorfeð;
greteð gliwstafum, georne geondsceawað
secga geseldan. Swimmað eft on weg!
Fleotendra ferð no þær fela bringeð
cuðra cwidegiedda. Cearo bið geniwad
þam þe sendan sceal swiþe geneahhe
ofer waþema gebind werigne sefan.
Forþon ic geþencan ne mæg geond þas woruld
for hwan modsefa min ne gesweorce,
þonne ic eorla lif eal geondþence,
hu hi færlice flet ofgeafon,
modge maguþegnas. Swa þes middangeard
ealra dogra gehwam dreoseð ond fealleþ,
forþon ne mæg weorþan wis wer, ær he age
wintra dæl in woruldrice. Wita sceal geþyldig,
ne sceal no to hatheort ne to hrædwyrde,
ne to wac wiga ne to wanhydig,
ne to forht ne to fægen, ne to feohgifre
ne næfre gielpes to georn, ær he geare cunne.
Beorn sceal gebidan, þonne he beot spriceð,
oþþæt collenferð cunne gearwe
hwider hreþra gehygd hweorfan wille.
Ongietan sceal gleaw hæle hu gæstlic bið,
þonne ealre þisse worulde wela weste stondeð,
swa nu missenlice geond þisne middangeard
winde biwaune weallas stondaþ,
hrime bihrorene, hryðge þa ederas.
Woriað þa winsalo, waldend licgað
dreame bidrorene, duguþ eal gecrong,
wlonc bi wealle. Sume wig fornom,
ferede in forðwege, sumne fugel oþbær
ofer heanne holm, sumne se hara wulf
deaðe gedælde, sumne dreorighleor
in eorðscræfe eorl gehydde.
Yþde swa þisne eardgeard ælda scyppend
oþþæt burgwara breahtma lease
eald enta geweorc idlu stodon.
Se þonne þisne wealsteal wise geþohte
ond þis deorce lif deope geondþenceð,
frod in ferðe, feor oft gemon
wælsleahta worn, ond þas word acwið:
“Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago? Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?
Hwær cwom symbla gesetu? Hwær sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune! Eala byrnwiga!
Eala þeodnes þrym! Hu seo þrag gewat,
genap under nihthelm, swa heo no wære.
Stondeð nu on laste leofre duguþe
weal wundrum heah, wyrmlicum fah.
Eorlas fornoman asca þryþe,
wæpen wælgifru, wyrd seo mære,
ond þas stanhleoþu stormas cnyssað,
hrið hreosende hrusan bindeð,
wintres woma, þonne won cymeð,
nipeð nihtscua, norþan onsendeð
hreo hæglfare hæleþum on andan.
Eall is earfoðlic eorþan rice,
onwendeð wyrda gesceaft weoruld under heofonum.
Her bið feoh læne, her bið freond læne,
her bið mon læne, her bið mæg læne,
eal þis eorþan gesteal idel weorþeð!”
Swa cwæð snottor on mode, gesæt him sundor æt rune.
Til biþ se þe his treowe gehealdeþ, ne sceal næfre his torn to rycene
beorn of his breostum acyþan, nemþe he ær þa bote cunne,
eorl mid elne gefremman. Wel bið þam þe him are seceð,
frofre to fæder on heofonum, þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð.
“Often the solitary one experiences mercy for himself,
the mercy of the Measurer, although he, troubled in spirit,
over the ocean must long
stir with his hands the rime-cold sea,
travel the paths of exile – Fate is inexorable.”
So said the wanderer, mindful of hardships,
of cruel deadly combats, the fall of dear kinsmen –
“Often alone each morning I must
Bewail my sorrow; there is now none living
to whom I dare tell clearly my inmost thoughts.
I know indeed
that it is a noble custom in a man
to bind fast his thoughts with restraint,
hold his treasure-chest, think what he will.
The man weary in spirit cannot withstand fate,
nor may the troubled mind offer help.
Therefore those eager for praise often bind a sad mind
in their breast-coffer with restraint.
So I, miserably sad, separated from homeland,
far from my noble kin, had to bind my thoughts with fetters,
since that long ago the darkness of the earth
covered my gold-friend, and I, abject,
proceeded thence, winter-sad, over the binding of the waves.
Sad, I sought the hall of a giver of treasure,
Where I might find, far or near,
one who in the meadhall might know about my people,
or might wish to comfort me, friendless,
entertain with delights. He knows who experiences it
how cruel care is as a companion,
to him who has few beloved protectors.
The path of exile awaits him, not twisted gold,
frozen feelings, not earth’s glory.
he remembers retainers and the receiving of treasure,
how in youth his gold-friend
accustomed him to the feast. But all pleasure has failed.
Indeed he knows who must for a long time do without
the counsels of his beloved lord
when sorrow and sleep together
often bind the wretched solitary man–
he thinks in his heart that he
embraces and kisses his lord, and lays
hands and head on his knee, just as he once at times
in former days, enjoyed the gift-giving.
Then the friendless man awakes again,
sees before him the dusky waves,
the seabirds bathing, spreading their wings,
frost and snow fall, mingled with hail.
Then are his heart’s wounds the heavier because of that,
sore with longing for a loved one. Sorrow is renewed
when the memory of kinsmen passes through his mind;
he greets with signs of joy, eagerly surveys
his companions, warriors. They swim away again.
The spirit of the floating ones never brings there many
familiar utterances. Care is renewed
for the one who must very often send
his weary spirit over the binding of the waves,
Therefore I cannot think why throughout the world
my mind should not grow dark
when I contemplate all the life of men,
how they suddenly left the hall floor,
brave young retainers. So this middle-earth
fails and falls each day;
therefore a man may not become wise before he owns
a share of winters in the kingdom of this world. A wise man must be patient,
nor must he ever be too hot tempered, nor too hasty of speech
nor too weak in battles, nor too heedless,
nor too fearful, nor too cheerful, nor too greedy for wealth
nor ever too eager for boasting before he knows for certain.
A man must wait, when he speaks a boast,
until, stout-hearted, he knows for certain
whither the thought of the heart may wish to turn.
The prudent man must realize how ghastly it will be
when all the wealth of this world stands waste,
as now variously throughout this middle-earth
walls stand beaten by the wind,
covered with rime, snow-covered the dwellings.
The wine-halls go to ruin, the rulers lie
deprived of joy, the host has all perished
proud by the wall. Some war took,
carried on the way forth; one a bird carried off
over the high sea; one the gray wolf shared
with Death; one a sad-faced nobleman
buried in an earth-pit.
So the Creator of men laid waste this region,
until the ancient world of giants, lacking the noises
of the citizens, stood idle.
He who deeply contemplates this wall-stead,
and this dark life with wise thought,
old in spirit, often remembers long ago,
a multitude of battles, and speaks these words:
“Where is the horse? Where is the young warrior? Where is the giver of treasure?
Where are the seats of the banquets? Where are the joys in the hall?
Alas the bright cup! Alas the mailed warrior!
Alas the glory of the prince! How the time has gone,
vanished under night’s helm, as if it never were!
Now in place of a beloved host stands
a wall wondrously high, decorated with the likenesses of serpents.
The powers of spears took the noblemen,
weapons greedy for slaughter; fate the renowned,
and storms beat against these rocky slopes,
falling snowstorm binds the earth,
the noise of winter, then the dark comes.
The shadow of night grows dark, sends from the north
a rough shower of hail in enmity to the warriors.
All the kingdom of earth is full of trouble,
the operation of the fates changes the world under the heavens.
Here wealth is transitory, here friend is transitory,
here man is transitory, here woman is transitory,
this whole foundation of the earth becomes empty.
So spoke the wise in spirit, sat by himself in private meditation.
He who is good keeps his pledge, nor shall the man ever manifest
the anger of his breast too quickly, unless he, the man,
should know beforehand how to accomplish the remedy with courage.
It will be well for him who seeks grace,
comfort from the Father in the heavens, where a fastness
stands for us all.
Mæg ic be me sylfum soðgied wrecan,
siþas secgan, hu ic geswincdagum
earfoðhwile oft þrowade,
bitre breostceare gebiden hæbbe,
gecunnad in ceole cearselda fela,
atol yþa gewealc, þær mec oft bigeat
nearo nihtwaco æt nacan stefnan,
þonne he be clifum cnossað. Calde geþrungen
wæron mine fet, forste gebunden,
caldum clommum, þær þa ceare seofedun
hat ymb heortan; hungor innan slat
merewerges mod. þæt se mon ne wat
þe him on foldan fægrost limpeð,
hu ic earmcearig iscealdne sæ
winter wunade wræccan lastum,
bihongen hrimgicelum; hægl scurum fleag.
þær ic ne gehyrde butan hlimman sæ,
iscaldne wæg. Hwilum ylfete song
dyde ic me to gomene, ganetes hleoþor
ond huilpan sweg fore hleahtor wera,
mæw singende fore medodrince.
Stormas þær stanclifu beotan, þær him stearn oncwæð
isigfeþera; ful oft þæt earn bigeal,
urigfeþra; ne ænig hleomæga
feasceaftig ferð frefran meahte.
Forþon him gelyfeð lyt, se þe ah lifes wyn
gebiden in burgum, bealosiþa hwon,
wlonc ond wingal, hu ic werig oft
in brimlade bidan sceolde.
Nap nihtscua, norþan sniwde,
hrim hrusan bond, hægl feol on eorþan,
corna caldast. Forþon cnyssað nu
heortan geþohtas, þæt ic hean streamas,
sealtyþa gelac sylf cunnige;
monað modes lust mæla gehwylce
ferð to feran, þæt ic feor heonan
elþeodigra eard gesece.
Forþon nis þæs modwlonc mon ofer eorþan,
ne his gifena þæs god, ne in geoguþe to þæs hwæt,
ne in his dædum to þæs deor, ne him his dryhten to þæs hold,
þæt he a his sæfore sorge næbbe,
to hwon hine dryhten gedon wille.
Ne biþ him to hearpan hyge ne to hringþege,
ne to wife wyn ne to worulde hyht,
ne ymbe owiht elles, nefne ymb yða gewealc,
ac a hafað longunge se þe on lagu fundað.
Bearwas blostmum nimað, byrig fægriað,
wongas wlitigað, woruld onetteð;
ealle þa gemoniað modes fusne
sefan to siþe, þam þe swa þenceð
on flodwegas feor gewitan.
Swylce geac monað geomran reorde,
singeð sumeres weard, sorge beodeð
bitter in breosthord. þæt se beorn ne wat,
esteadig secg, hwæt þa sume dreogað
þe þa wræclastas widost lecgað.
Forþon nu min hyge hweorfeð ofer hreþerlocan,
min modsefa mid mereflode
ofer hwæles eþel hweorfeð wide,
eorþan sceatas, cymeð eft to me
gifre ond grædig, gielleð anfloga,
hweteð on hwælweg hreþer unwearnum
ofer holma gelagu. Forþon me hatran sind
dryhtnes dreamas þonne þis deade lif,
læne on londe. Ic gelyfe no
þæt him eorðwelan ece stondað.
Simle þreora sum þinga gehwylce,
ær his tid aga, to tweon weorþeð;
adl oþþe yldo oþþe ecghete
fægum fromweardum feorh oðþringeð.
Forþon þæt bið eorla gehwam æftercweþendra
lof lifgendra lastworda betst,
þæt he gewyrce, ær he on weg scyle,
fremum on foldan wið feonda niþ,
deorum dædum deofle togeanes,
þæt hine ælda bearn æfter hergen,
ond his lof siþþan lifge mid englum
awa to ealdre, ecan lifes blæd,
dream mid dugeþum. Dagas sind gewitene,
ealle onmedlan eorþan rices;
næron nu cyningas ne caseras
ne goldgiefan swylce iu wæron,
þonne hi mæst mid him mærþa gefremedon
ond on dryhtlicestum dome lifdon.
Gedroren is þeos duguð eal, dreamas sind gewitene,
wuniað þa wacran ond þas woruld healdaþ,
brucað þurh bisgo. Blæd is gehnæged,
eorþan indryhto ealdað ond searað,
swa nu monna gehwylc geond middangeard.
Yldo him on fareð, onsyn blacað,
gomelfeax gnornað, wat his iuwine,
æþelinga bearn, eorþan forgiefene.
Ne mæg him þonne se flæschoma, þonne him þæt feorg losað,
ne swete forswelgan ne sar gefelan,
ne hond onhreran ne mid hyge þencan.
þeah þe græf wille golde stregan
broþor his geborenum, byrgan be deadum,
maþmum mislicum þæt hine mid wille,
ne mæg þære sawle þe biþ synna ful
gold to geoce for godes egsan,
þonne he hit ær hydeð þenden he her leofað.
Micel biþ se meotudes egsa, forþon hi seo molde oncyrreð;
se gestaþelade stiþe grundas,
eorþan sceatas ond uprodor.
Dol biþ se þe him his dryhten ne ondrædeþ; cymeð him se deað unþinged.
Eadig bið se þe eaþmod leofaþ; cymeð him seo ar of heofonum,
meotod him þæt mod gestaþelað, forþon he in his meahte gelyfeð.
Stieran mon sceal strongum mode, ond þæt on staþelum healdan,
ond gewis werum, wisum clæne,
scyle monna gehwylc mid gemete healdan
wiþ leofne ond wið laþne bealo,
þeah þe he hine wille fyres fulne
oþþe on bæle forbærnedne
his geworhtne wine. Wyrd biþ swiþre,
meotud meahtigra þonne ænges monnes gehygd.
Uton we hycgan hwær we ham agen,
ond þonne geþencan hu we þider cumen,
ond we þonne eac tilien, þæt we to moten
in þa ecan eadignesse,
þær is lif gelong in lufan dryhtnes,
hyht in heofonum. þæs sy þam halgan þonc,
þæt he usic geweorþade, wuldres ealdor,
ece dryhten, in ealle tid.
Reading the poems
I can recite a lay of truth about myself,
relate experiences, how I often in days of toil
suffered a time of hardship.
I have experienced bitter breast-care,
explored in a ship many abodes of care,
the terrible tossing of seawaves, where often
the anxious night-watch held me at the stern of the boat,
when it tosses by the cliffs. Constricted by bold
were my feet, bound by frost
with cold fetters, while cares sighed
hot about my heart; hunger tore from within
the spirit of the sea-weary one. That man does not know,
to whom things happen most pleasantly on land,
how I, wretched and sorrowful, on the ice-cold sea
wandered in winter on the paths of an exile,
bereft of beloved kinsmen,
hung about with icicles; hail flies in showers.
There I heard nothing but the roaring sea,
the ice-cold wave. Sometimes the wild swan’s song
cheered me [?], the cry of the gannet
and the sound of the curlew, in place of the laughter of men,
the singing mew instead of mead-drink.
There storms beat the stone cliffs, there the tern answered them,
icy-feathered one; very often the eagle screamed round about,
dewy-feathered one; no protecting kinsman
could comfort the wretched in spirit.
Indeed he little admits to himself, he who the joy of life
has experienced in the cities, proud and flushed with wine,
how I, weary, often
had to remain on the sea-way.
The shadow of night grew dark, it snowed from the north,
frost bound the earth, hail fell on the ground,
kernels coldest. Truly now
thoughts urge my heart, that I should myself experience the high seas,
the tossing of the salt sea-waves.
The desire of the heart urges, with each occasion,
the spirit to journey, so that I, far from here,
may seek the land of strangers on earth.
For indeed there is not a man so proud throughout the earth,
nor his gifts so good, nor so vigorous in youth,
nor in his deeds so brave, nor his lord so kind to him,
that he may not ever have sorrow in his sea-faring,
to the extent the Lord will bring him to.
Thought for him is not for harp, nor for the receiving of rings,
nor pleasure in a woman nor joyous expectation in the world,
nor concerning anything else except the tossing of sea-waves;
but he who will go to sea has ever a longing.
The groves take on blossom, adorn the cities,
make fields beautiful; the world hastens on,
all these urge the eager spirit
of the heart to journey, for him who so thinks,
to depart far away on the sea-ways.
So the cuckoo urgers with mournful voice,
the guardian of summer sings, forebodes sorrow,
bitter in the breast-hoard. The man blessed with comfort does not know what these endure
who lay furthest the paths of exile.
Indeed now my spirit takes flight beyond my bound breat,
my heart flies wide with the sea stream,
over the whale’s realm,
the surfaces of the earth; comes again to me
ravenous and greedy; the solitary flier calls out,
incites irresistibly the heart onto the whale-way,
over the waters of the sea. For hotter to me are
the joys of the Lord than this dead life,
transitory on land. I do not believe
that earthly riches endure eternally for him.
Ever one of three things becomes an occasion for uncertainty
for each of the retainers before his last day:
disease or old age or sword-hate
wrest life away from the one fated to die, passing away.
Therefore for each man the praise of the living, of those speaking afterwards, is the best reputation left behind.
Let him bring it about that, before he must depart,
by good deeds on earth against the enmity of fiends,
by brave deeds against the devil,
that the children of men may extol him afterwards,
and his praise may live afterwards with the angels,
always to eternity, the glory of life eternal,
joy among the heavenly host. The days are departed,
all the glories of the kingdom of the earth;
now there are neither kings nor emperors,
nor goldgivers as there once were,
when they performed amongst themselves so many glorious deeds,
and lived in the most lordly renown.
All this host is fallen, joys are departed,
the weaker ones remain and rule the world,
gain the use of it by toil. The blossom is bowed down,
the nobility of the earth grows old and fades,
just as now each of the men throughout middle-earth.
Old age overtakes him, the face grows pale,
the hoary-haired one mourns, knows that his friendship of former days,
children of princes, have been given to the earth.
The flesh-home may not then, when life fails,
either swallow sweet, or feel pain,
or stir a hand, or think with the mind.
Although a brother may wish to strew with gold
the grave of his brother, bury him with the dead
with manifold treasures, they will not go with him–
gold cannot be a help to the soul which is full of sin,
before the terror of God
when he hides it formerly while he lives here.
The terrible power of the Measurer will be great, before which the earth will turn aside;
He established the rocky foundations,
the surfaces of the earth, and the heaven above.
Foolish is he who does not fear his Lord: death comes to him unprepared.
Blessed is he who lives humble; grace from the heavens comes to him.
The Measurer makes firm his spirit, because he believes in His might.
A man must control his headstrong spirit, and keep it in place,
and trustworthy in pledges, pure in its ways.
Each man should govern with moderation,
love to a loved one and malice to an enemy,
although he may not... filled up with fire.... [?]
Fate is stronger,
The Measurer mightier, than the conception of any man.
Let us think where we have a home,
and then consider how we may come thither;
and then also we may endeavour, so that we might go
to that eternal blessedness,
where life is inseparable from the love of the Lord,
bliss in the heaevens. Let there be thanks to God,
the Lord of Glory, that He has honoured us,
true Lord, for all time.
The Wanderer, the first page of which can be seen on the left, is a 115 line alliterative Old English poem found in the Exeter Manuscript. Its poet is unknown and so is its date of origin; but it cannot have been later than the 10th century as that is when the Exeter book is dated back to. The uncertainty around when it was written helps the case of the scholars who think that the Wanderer is the story of a conversion, as they think it was written in around 6th century when the Anglo Saxons were converting to Christianity.
The Seafarer, also found in the Exeter Book one poem after the Wanderer, has 124 lines but ends in a single word: "Amen". This helps scholars who side with the Christianity theme in their arguments even though there are debates questioning whether the poems have been revised by clergy before being recorded.
Structure and poetic devices in the two poems
Gordon (1954) discusses at length the themes found in the two poems by taking into account their surrounding texts. She is against the idea that the Wanderer and the Seafarer are Christian poems, and to think that the latter is allegorical is going too far. She does not agree that the wanderer and the seafarer in the poems are Christian figures like the pilgrims of the Celtic, but they are rather like people from Irish elegies. She states that even though there is some Christian moralizing to be found in these poems, the themes of overpowering fate and the transience of life are not too far from Pagan ideas; and there is no proof that “a pious reviser” did not go over these supposed manuscripts. That said, she does agree that the second part of the poem has Christian themes in it especially because the miseries of exile are seen as an incentive to reach the joys of God. The real “doom and gloom”, she says, lies in the fact that the people in these elegies are willing to sacrifice themselves for God because there is essentially no other hope in the world. Either “terrible old age”, “violence”, or “sickness” is going to end their life anyway.
Themes in the two poems
The main themes that are found in the Seafarer and the Wanderer are essentially the same, they talk about the difficulty of exile, the transient nature of life, and the loss of beloved ones; mostly comparing the bliss and glory of the days past to the gloom of the day. These two poems have been studied to the most minute detail, but what seems to be a lasting question is, as hinted in my introduction, whether these two poems actually bear Christian motifs and talk about the conversion from paganism to Christianity. The debate saw its most heated days half a century ago, but this is an issue that can never be solved as there will never be solid proof supporting either side's argument. Much like Republicans and Democrats in the United States, I believe everyone will continue to see what they want to see. The following frames will give you an idea of the basic arguments of the seculars and the Christianists.
Lippiatt represents the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to these two poems. He states that they are distinguished from the rest of the works of their time as they present a transition from the secular and mundane to the Christian spiritual. As Dr. Lee often points out in his lectures, Germanic paganism and Christianity co-existed for a long time before the Norman Conquest. For this reason, Lippiatt denies the classification of these two poems as elegies, which he thinks are a distant Greco-Roman relative to what the Seafarer and the Wanderer are: Religious poems. As Gordon recognizes religious influences in what she really thinks are really elegies, Lippiatt recognizes the pagan-Germanic-adventure patterns in what the calls religious poems. The Wanderer and The Seafarer do have the elegiac themes of exile, lands laid to waste, the loss of companions, and the transience of mundane joys, Lippiatt acknowledges, but unlike traditional elegies that state a yearning towards the heart’s earthly desires, these two poems find consolation in what God has to offer them after they pass away. After a thorough recital of Anglo Saxon history in terms of Christianity and lengthy discussions pertaining to poetic styles, he concludes that the two poems are best seen as representatives of Christian Spiritual Asceticism, with the ideas emerging in the Wanderer coming to their maturity in the Seafarer.
Lumiansky (1950) provides a line by line explanation of the poem that helps clarify the thematic controversies that still seem to confound scholars to this day. His take is that of a previous scholar’s, namely Huppe’s, which states that the poet was in fact voicing two people in the differing first and second halves of the poem, comparing and contrasting the differences of earthly security (a pagan theme) and Godly security (a Christian theme). He emphasizes the similarities between the Wanderer and the Consolation as proof of this poem not being of heathen origin.
Salmon (1960) is one of the scholars that are the exact opposite end from Lippiatt, and she thinks these two poems include utterly pagan thoughts then extant from primitive times. Her main argument is that the spirits mentioned in the poem that other scholars are reading in Christian ways may actually refer to the souls of the poets’ ancestors in the form of birds that “fly and swim (float)” in the sea and can be summoned. The idea that the souls of the dead linger on earth in different forms and inside various natural objects is common in pagan beliefs.
Despite the many thematic and stylistic similarities, there have been scholars who have drawn attention to differences between the two poems. Stevick (1965) is one of the scholars that put specific emphasis on the end of the Seafarer, which is structurally missing. He claims that the Seafarer maybe thematically related to the Wanderer, but formally it is most similar to the Wife’s Lament. He goes as far as saying that the poet might have forgot what the form demanded, or (s)he might have actually left it incomplete. The most probable explanation that Stevick comes up with is that the Seafarer was complete in terms of content, but the manuscript that has reached this day had not yet been fully revised. He concludes that just because the Seafarer does not structure the model of the Wanderer does not prove it defective, but the manuscript makes much more sense if one thinks of it as left off in the initial stages of composition.
The two poems are full of them, so here are some that I found noteworthy: earth-stepper (wanderer) and wealth chamber ( mind or heart) in the Wanderer, and rime-crystals (icicles), ring-taking (marriage)
and flesh-home (the human body) in the Seafarer.
Meter: Both poems were written in alliterative verse, with at least two stressed syllables in each half line and with alliteration between the stressed syllables.
From the Wanderer:
/ x / x x / / x x
iltse, þeah þe he
/ x x / x x x x / / x x
From the Seafarer:
/ x x / x x x / x x x x
/ x / x x / x x x x
Please be reminded that as Lumiansky (1950) points out, there is no punctuation in the manuscript of the poems.
The Wanderer and the Seafarer have usually been studied together, and it has even been suggested (Boer, 1902) that the poems were the remnants of what used to be three poems, and this is how the seemingly disconnected halves and/or Christian/pagan features were explained. A lengthy discussion on what might have happened to the original poems in the Exeter book can be found in Prins (1964). Lawrence (1902) provides a valuable recap of what early scholars thought of the person(s) present in the poems. These questions and arguments stay open to this day.
To help you form your opinions of the two poems better, next are the OE and MnE written versions of the two poems. The frames will only take you through the translations, but feel free to look at the originals at your leisure.
As such, the discussions as to the nature of the the poems are still present in more recent scholarly essays, even though they take a more reconciliatory path in their analyses. Lawrence (2005), for example, says about the Wanderer: "What we need is a way to read the poem that will allow the wanderer to embrace his Germanic heroic past even as he experiences the consolation and the joys of the Christian Creator. We need a way of reading the poem that will enable us to see how the wanderer retains some commitment to the heroic values of his former life and yet allows us to regard the poem as something more than a lament for ‘the death of the Germanic past’". Sharma (2012) asserts that "[f]or the poet, [...] the communal introjection of loss possesses the most delicate ambivalence: on the one hand, it indicates the Christian transcendence of a past cultural dispensation; on the other, it indicates this dispensation’s spectral afterlife", which more than anything proves the improbability of ever resolving the thematic issues related to these two old poems.