Poem Analysis: The Seafarer

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Poem Analysis: The Seafarer

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The Seafarer

He says that the Creator of Men has made the world unpredictable, and that hardships can happen to anyone at any time. Things can go from bad to good in a moment. The Wanderer hypothesizes that the Creator of Men, who created human civilization and conflict, is also wise. Even He has memories of battles, remembering one certain horse or man. He, like the Wanderer, also must lament the loss of treasure, festivities, and glorious leaders. The Wanderer contemplates the way that all these things disappear in time, leaving behind nothing but darkness. The Wanderer's former kingdom rots behind a wall covered in the carcasses of serpents. There is no longer any music, or powerful weaponry. Winter brings violent snowstorms and longer nightfall, leaving men frightened and helpless.

However, the Wanderer concludes, life is difficult at times. Everything is subject to fate. Wealth fades, friends leave, and kingdoms fall. The Wanderer now ascribes these words to a wise man, or a sage, in meditation. He describes this man as someone who is steady in his faith and, when something bad happens, he does not panic, but rather, stays calm until he can figure out a solution. In conclusion, the Wanderer advises all men to look to God for comfort, since He is the one who is responsible for the fate of mankind. The poem is admittedly difficult to decipher for several reasons.

First of all, there could be more than one narrator, as the poem fluctuates between personal experience and general advice. Additionally, there is a hidden layer of metaphor alluding to the relationship between Pagan and Christian themes. This is likely because the two pieces have a lot in common, like their solitary speakers, the theme of the decaying material world, a melancholy tone, and idea of finding security through religious faith. The narrative arc of of the poem follows the Wanderer, a former warrior whose lord has recently died.

He remembers the fealty he paid to his lord, the revelry of his hall, and his relationships with his kinsmen. He endeavored to find a new lord but was unsuccessful, and now he wanders alone, trying to gain wisdom from his melancholy thoughts. He describes his solitary journey through a wintry world as a stark contrast to the warmth and comfort of his lord's hall. He identifies with all lonely wanderers.

In the second part of the poem, he starts contemplating more general themes about humanity. He ponders the impermanence of things while describing ruins and the destruction of other manmade artifacts. He uses his observations to segue into the characteristics that define a wise man. In his experience, a wise man should not possess anxiety, braggadocio, or irresoluteness. At the end of the poem, The Wanderer explains that he has gained wisdom from the experience of living through many winters. Finally, he exhorts his readers to look to God for security on this journey of life. Scholars disagree about the number of speakers represented in the poem, with some contending that there is only one and others believing that in the shift from personal tales to general advice, a new narrator has taken over the poem.

Scholars commonly claim that the first seven lines of the poem are an introduction, the Wanderer's monologue begins in line 8, and a new monologue begins in line The second monologue could either be a wise man delivering a new speech by a second speech by the Wanderer himself, who has evolved into a wise man. In his article on "The Wanderer", John L. Selzer examines the elegy through the lens of the meditative tradition stemming from the work of St. Augustine, which the Anglo-Saxon audience would have been very familiar with.

Selzer observes that the Wanderer begins his tale with an evocation of memory by recalling his past actions, lost friends, and an older way of life. His description of how he looked for another lord is also in the past tense, signifying that he is no longer looking for one. Instead, the Wanderer is now suffering at sea and dreaming of happier times. Sadly, "in the midst of physical and mental exhaustion, he lapse[s] into deeper memories, even hallucinations, in his interior quest for his lord, so that the memory of his kinsmen mingle[s] with the real seabirds to produce the illusion that the birds [are] his kinsmen. The Wanderer finishes his meditation and then ventures to apply his wisdom to his recollections.

In the analytical section of the poem, the narrator shifts to the present tense, reinforcing that this section represents immediate thoughts instead of fading memories. In Selzer's interpretation, the Wanderer eventually comes to the conclusion that "experiencing the trials of the world is not simply a hardship; if hardships are approached with the right attitude, they can be a means of gaining higher knowledge.

This conclusion is represents the result of The Wanderer's meditation. Many scholars debate the relationship between Pagan and Christian themes in "The Wanderer". The mention of God at the end of the poem suggests that it is a Christian poem, but this conclusion may be too simple. The Christian viewpoint, as I. Gordon points out, is usually more admonitory in tone. John C. Pope and Stanley Greenfield have specifically debated the meaning of the word sylf modern English: self, very, own , [35] which appears in the first line of the poem. Smithers drew attention to the following points in connection with the word anfloga , which occurs in line 62b of the poem: 1.

The anfloga brings about the death of the person speaking. It is characterized as eager and greedy. It moves through the air. It yells. As a result, Smithers concluded that it is therefore possible that the anfloga designates a valkyrie. This may have some bearing on their interpretation. John R. The "death-way" reading was adopted by C. Grein in auf den Todesweg ; by Henry Sweet in "on the path of death", although he changed his mind in ; and A. Horgan in "upon destruction's path". Other translators have almost all favoured "whale road". Bessinger Jr provided two translations of anfloga : 1. This adjective appears in the dative case, indicating "attendant circumstances", as unwearnum , only twice in the entire corpus of Anglo-Saxon literature: in The Seafarer , line 63; and in Beowulf , line In both cases it can be reasonably understood in the meaning provided by Leo, who makes specific reference to The Seafarer.

George P. Krapp and Elliot V. Gordon produced the first modern scholarly edition in Klinck included the poem in her compendium edition of Old English elegies in It is included in the full facsimile of The Exeter Book by R. The Seafarer has been translated many times by numerous scholars, poets, and other writers, with the first English translation by Benjamin Thorpe in Between and over 60 different versions, in eight languages, have been recorded. American expatriate poet Ezra Pound produced a well-known interpretation of The Seafarer , and his version varies from the original in theme and content. It all but eliminates the religious element of the poem, and addresses only the first 99 lines. Bessinger Jr noted, p , that Pound's poem 'has survived on merits that have little to do with those of an accurate translation'.

Pound's version was most recently re-published in the Norton Anthology of Poetry , Painter and printmaker Jila Peacock created a series of monoprints in response to the poem in Her prints have subsequently been brought together with a translation of the poem by Amy Kate Riach, published by Sylph Editions in Composer Sally Beamish has written several works inspired by The Seafarer since Her Viola Concerto no. A large format book was released in, , with a smaller edition in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Old English poem. Merry, George R. Merry, G. Brooke, Stopford Augustus , English literature from the beginning to the Norman conquest , Macmillan, pp. He writes the poem as a dialogue between an Old and Young Man.

He ends at l. The poem is translated in its entirety, with a brief explanatory note on different theories. Introduction notes the book is designed to "meet the needs of that ever-increasing body of students who cannot read the poems in their original form, but who wish nevertheless to enjoy to some extent the heritage of verse which our early English ancestors have left for us" p.

LaMotte Iddings, Lola The poem is translated in its entirety in this collection. A post-Pound publication. The poem is explained as a dialogue between The Old Sailor and Youth, and ends at line Mackie, W. Gordon, R. Hieatt, Constance B. Bradley, S. Treharne, Elaine , Old and Middle English c. Salter, Mary Jo , Matto; Delanty eds. The Exeter book of Old English poetry. London: Printed and pub. In Godden, Malcolm; Lapidge, Michael eds. Cambridge University Press.

ISBN The Review of English Studies. New Series. JSTOR Imagining the Anglo-Saxon Past 1st ed. Woodbridge, England: DS Brewer. New York: Garland. The Journal of Germanic Philology. English Studies. The Yearbook of English Studies. ISSN In Szarmach, Paul E. Teresa; Roesenthal, Joel T. Medieval England: an Encyclopedia. The Cambridge Old English Reader.

Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Oxford: Clarendon. Old English Poems. In Bessinger, Jess. Essential Articles: Old English Poetry.

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