Essay on A Comparison of the Sea in Beowulf and The Seafarer

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The Sea in Beowulf and The Seafarer

The characters in the Old English poem Beowulf certainly delighted in the seas. This essay seeks to compare their attitude toward the sea with that expressed in another Old English poem, The Seafarer.

In Beowulf there is one reference after another to the sea. When Scyld died, “his people caried him to the sea, which was his last request,” where he drifted out into the beyond on a “death ship.” In the Geat land Beowulf, a “crafty sailor,” and his men “shoved the well-braced ship out on the journey they’d dreamed of,” to rescue the Danes from Grendel. “From far over the sea’s expanse,” the Geats came, “brave men who come over the sea swells.” In his welcoming speech Hrothgar
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Such references are almost countless in this poem, and many of them imply, if not state, a great emotional appreciation which the characters had for the sea. Over half a century later, when the hero is dying from wounds suffered in battle against the fire-dragon, his final wish is for the raising of “ a splendid mound” which “seafarers shall afterward call it Beowulf’s Mound when they pilot their ships far over the ocean’s mists.”

Another Old English poem, The Seafarer, has a deep connection with the sea. Though the latter poem is considerably shorter than Beowulf, nevertheless the sentiments expressed therein about the sea reflect some of the same found in Beowulf. The poet begins by reflecting on the miseries which he has endured when travelling by sea in winter–miseries of which the landsman in his comfortable castle knows nothing:

This tale I frame shall be found to tally:

the history is of
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