The Anglo-Saxon poems, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and The Wife’s Lament

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The Anglo-Saxon poems, “The Wanderer,” “The Seafarer,” and “The Wife’s Lament”

The Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, era of England lasted from about 450-1066 A.D. The tribes from Germany that conquered Britain in the fifth century carried with them both the Old English language and a detailed poetic tradition. The tradition included alliteration, stressed and unstressed syllables, but more importantly, the poetry was usually mournful, reflecting on suffering and loss.1These sorrowful poems from the Anglo Saxon time period are mimetic to the Anglo-Saxons themselves; they reflect the often burdened and miserable lives and times of the people who created them. The Anglo-Saxon poems, “The Wanderer,” “The Seafarer,” and “The Wife’s Lament,”
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The comitatus “stressed the loyalty of a thane to his chieftain and treated exile and outlawry as the most tragic lots that could befall one. This secular sense of loss is keen in The Wanderer.”6 Not only is the loss of a lord evident in “The Wanderer,” but in “The Seafarer” and “The Wife’s Lament” as well.

The poem “The Wanderer” speaks of a man who has been exiled from his clan, and is now forced to roam the land alone. Separation from his fellow kinsmen and lord seems to be the worst fate imaginable. The man speaks of his great loss, remembering the time when he was happy with his liege,

When friendships are no more. His fortune is exile,
Not gifts of fine gold; a heart that is frozen,
Earth’s wisomeness dead. And he dreams of the hall-men,
The dealing of treasure, the days of his youth,
When his lord bade welcome to wassail and feast.
But gone is that gladness, and never again
Shall come the loved counsel of comrade and king.

(II. 27-34)

The speaker of “The Seafarer” is also an outcast sailing the sea in solitude, and he speaks similarly of his exile from his lord and kinsmen: “Wretched and anxious, in the paths of exile/ Lacking dear friends, hung round by icicles.” (II. 14-15) He seems to believe that if he has lost his fellow warriors and lord, or his friends,
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