The Seafarer Essay, Research Paper
THE SEAFARERThe “Seafarer” contains many references to the older, traditional, pagan beliefs of fate, and the newer, but more predominant Christian faith. Christian monks wrote the “Seafarer”, just before Christianity gained dominance in Britain. It was essentially a type of propaganda to convince the people who had not yet subscribed to the Christian dogma that they could have the best of both worlds: they could continue to honor their belief in fate but also embrace life and be happy. This was contradictory to the original Anglo-Saxon view of the world being strictly grim and fatalistic.Historically, the peoples known as the Angles and the Saxons around about the year 450 invaded Britain. For the next hundred years their pagan beliefs dominated the island. Beginning in the sixth century Christianity began its crusade, eventually becoming dominant. By 650, most of the island had professed their faith in the dogmas of the Christian church. The “Seafarer” is believed to have been written during the sixth century (700-799). The poems written during this period typically blended both pagan and Christian elements. The seafarer, which is the main character, is seen as a typical inhabitant of the British Isles during the Anglo-Saxon period (449 to 1066). Before Christianity was introduced to the island, which is now known as Britain, the people had a strict belief in fate. The “Seafarer” was written after the introduction of Christianity, therefore their belief in fate was no as strong. The main character’s (a seafarer) duel Pagan/Christian religious faith is typical to a person living in the Anglo-Saxon period. His instinctual believe in fate is mentioned many times in the poem. The first mention of fate is: “But there isn’t a man on earth so proud, so brave, or so graced by God, That he feels no fear Wondering what Fate has willed and will do…” (39-43) states that every man actually does not possess the strict pagan belief in fate that he should. In fact, he often thinks thoughts of worrying what will happen to him. His belief in Christianity allows him to justify this behavior.
The bringing of Christianity allowed people to channel their thoughts of fear into positive energy, “Under his lord. Fate is stronger And God mightier than any man’s mind. Our thoughts should turn to where our home is, To rise to that eternal joy .” (115-120) This statement shows that the Anglo-Saxons could believe in the fate of death, which was normally a grim and sad event, and yet still also think of death as a time to achieve happiness. This happiness was the joyous event of rising to heaven. Their faith in God allowed them to believe they in fact would be happy, if not now, definitely after their death. “Thus the joys of God Are fervent with life ” (64-65) ‘the joys’ meaning the faith or belief in Christianity.Anglo-Saxon literature was orally recited by scops at evening gatherings. Therefore this poem was told hundreds, if not thousands, of people during the Anglo-Saxon period. This made it an awesome tool in the Christian Crusade of Britain.