Wanderer Essay, Research Paper
The Anglo-Saxon society was a combination of the Jutes, the Anglos, and the Saxons. It was through this combination that the values of this one culture evolved. Anglo-Saxons lived their lives according to values such as masculine orientation, transience of life, and love for glory. Contradictory to the belief that the Anglo-Saxons values are outdated, one will find when taking a closer look that most of the values are, in fact, still present in today s society. Most of the literature from that time period, lasting from 449-1066, is by unknown authors. The oral tradition practiced by the Anglo-Saxons made it possible for the pieces to be passed down and still be in existence today. When many of the pieces were finally written down the took on a poetic style. Through the examination of these poems, both universal and cultural themes become present. In The Seafarer and The Wanderer, both being poems from the Anglo-Saxon time period, the anonymous authors portray the universal theme of the harshness of life through imagery patterns of the sea and winter, and in the conclusion of both poems it becomes evident to the subjects of the poems that the only way they will find contentment in life is if they accept the fact that the things that happen to them are all a part of God s plan.In both poems the unknown authors use the imagery of the sea to represent the trials of life. In both, the reader must understand that the theme presented, the harshness of life, has had a specific impact on the character in the poem. They have had a personal experience that has lead them to the conclusion that this theme is relevant in everyone s life. The opening of The Seafarer proves this to be true as the very first line states This tale is true and mine. This brings to the reader s awareness that the tale of the poem is an experience of the poem s character. Immediately after that, the writer uses the imagery of the sea to illustrate the theme of the harshness of life. It tells/ How the sea took me swept me back/ And forth in sorrows and fear and pain. In reading this poem it becomes obvious that life is represented by the sea. In this line the person is saying that that he has been swept away by the trials of life. The author continues with the imagery of the sea throughout the entire piece. Showed me suffering in a hundred ships,/ In a thousand ports and in me. It tells/ Of the smashing surf when I sweated in the cold/ Of an anxious watch, perched in the bow/ As it dashed under cliffs My feet were cast. Through the next few lines the author shows the reader that man is scared of life and what it has in store for him in the same way that he is scared on a ship out at sea. The author uses the feeling of this person out at sea, when I sweated in the cold/ Of anxious watch as a parallel to the anxiousness and fear of what life will bring. In describing the man s soul as being sea weary, the author is demonstrating man s lack of control over his life. The waves of the sea, and the sea itself, are uncontrollable and this is how the person in the poem feels about his life and his soul. The only sound was the roaring sea. This suggests that the hardships of life overpower other aspects of the person s life. Roaring implies something being extremely loud and unavoidable, indicating that the harshness of life is always staring one in the face and cannot be escaped. The reference that the author to the freezing waves also represents the unavoidable difficult times in life. Here the word freezing brings to mind extreme coldness, being trapped, and even death. The next referral to the sea reinforces this theory, To a soul left drowning in desolation. The person in the lyric feels as though he is drowning, being pulled under because he can t cope with the harshness of life. The hardships of his life diminish any of the good times he may experience. The word desolation, implies that the person in the poem feels like he will drown in his sorrows all alone in the same way that he has been left alone to deal with life itself. Continuing to express the theme, the writer uses the lines And how my heart/ Would begin to beat, knowing once more/ The salt waves tossing and towering sea. These lines create the image of this person being tossed about by the waves; being thrown from one difficulty to the next. He is unable to escape them.In The Wanderer, like The Seafarer, it is also necessary for the reader to understand the personal connection that the person in the poem has with the theme. In The Wanderer, the subject of the poem is seeing the harshness of life through the experience of losing someone, a comrade, who was close to him. The narrator expresses how the subject feels in the following lines that state, Though woefully toiling on wintry seas/ With the churning of the oar in the icy wave,/ Homeless and helpless he fled from fate. The subject is trying to escape a painful situation but is rowing on an icy sea making the escape slow and difficult. One cannot escape life s pain and it is futile to try. And I sailed away with sorrowful heart,/ Over wintry seas, seeking a gold lord. once again portrays a desperate and difficult attempt to flee from his sorrow. The seeking of a gold lord implies that he wants to know what purpose his loss has served and what good, if any, can come from it. The Wanderer also exemplifies the theme by illustrating the fact that hard times have not only short term effects, but long term effects as well. Beholding gray stretches of tossing sea, illustrates that this person still feels the pain caused by the death of his friend, even after the passing of time. It becomes evident to the reader that one cannot control the things that happen in one s life, and that life is seen as unfair and harsh. The last sea imagery used by this writer portrays one fighting against being tossed about the sea, Once more to the toil of the tossing sea. This tells the reader that life is full of difficult times and regardless of how one may try to avoid them, he cannot. Through the use of the imagery pattern of the sea, both of these writers are able to convey how harsh life can be.Both writers use the reference of winter to further illuminate the theme for their readers. It is the combination of the two images, winter and sea, that brings clarity to the theme. Winter is a cold, dreary, and often depressing time. It is the time of the year when things of nature die and become dormant. Snow, ice, and frost can be damaging and often bring things to a halt causing one to become trapped. The winter of The Seafarer utilizes words like icy, frost, frozen, icicles, hailstorms, and snow to give the illusion of being trapped or coming to one s ending. He is implying that the harshness of life is much like the harshness of winter, one feels trapped and depressed, wondering if good times will ever follow. Specifically with such lines as, In icy bands, bound with frost/ With the frozen chains, hardships groaned, the writer illustrates one being held captive by his difficulties, unable to escape. These images imply once again that one cannot avoid the hardships of life and that they can make it impossible to enjoy life.The author of The Wanderer also effectively uses the imagery of winter in lines such as, When friends are no more. His fortune is exile,/ Not gifts of fine gold; a heart that is frozen to produce the feeling of being desolate. The subject is alone and caught in his sorrow, his heart is cold and hard and he is incapable of experiencing joy. The line that states, While hailstorms darken, and driving snow represents the continuing feelings of despair that the subject feels will never end. Hailstorms darken could also be symbolic of man s emotions and how they are so easily darkened when challenged in life. Old comrades remembered. But they melt into air/ With no word of greeting to gladden his heart indicates that one can try to overcome his feelings of loss, but it is often ineffectual. When first examining this line, one might conceive the word melt to mean that in the same way snow melts in the winter, one s pain and sorrow will melt away. Contradicting this, one will find that they have perceived the word incorrectly and that in actuality it represents something quite different. Melting is referring to the idea that this person tried to overcome his feelings of loss for his friend, but that it did not work or bring him the comfort he desired. This line illustrates that while they may think he is strong enough to handle whatever life brings, in reality he often is left feeling alone and helpless. There will be no words of greeting to gladden their hearts. Both writers found it to be extremely effective to use imagery patterns of the sea and winter together in order to illuminate their themes to their readers. The fact that the imagery patterns were adequate in helping these writers express their theme is true. However, these specific imagery patterns slowly dwindle and no longer exist by the end of both poems. Instead there is a major transition, and the idea of putting one s faith and trust in God comes into play. But there isn t a man on earth so proud,/ So born to greatness, so bold with his youth,/ Grown brave, or so graced by God,/ That he feels no fear as the sails unfurl is a line from The Seafarer illustrating this. At this point in the poem, the narrator in it realizes that everyone faces trying times in life. No one can avoid the trials of life and the feelings of fear and despair that accompany them. Another line that shows the narrator realizing and accepting the fact that there will always be hard times in life is this line: The days are gone/ When the kingdoms of earth flourished in glory,/ Now there are no rulers, no emperors,/ No givers of gold, as once there were. While at one time on earth there might not have been pain and suffering, there is now, and it is unavoidable, so mankind must learn how to cope with it. The weakest survives and the world continues is letting the readers know that it is acceptable to fear the harshness of life, however, they can survive and go on from there. Under his lord. Fate is stronger/ And God mightier than any man s mind. The use of the word fate in this line means that all men will experience trials and hardships in life and that they cannot control life, it is in God s hands. And God mightier than any man s mind reveals the fact that man will not be able to explain why things happen; man can t comprehend the reason he must suffer. The last lines of this poem, That life born in the love of God/ And the hope of Heaven. Praise the Holy/ Grace of Him who honored us,/ Eternal, unchanging creator of earth, are indicating that every man must remember he was born out of God s love. He must remember that God did not put him here, on earth, merely to suffer. The very last word of The Seafarer is Amen, suggesting that the entire poem was a prayer, asking God for courage and strength to face this difficult time and for an understanding of why it happened. Overall, by the end of the poem it is apparent to the reader that he must face the trials that life brings as best he can and that things will be better when he dies and ascends into Heaven. The Wanderer also comes to the same conclusion, that man must make amends with God and accept His plan. However, The Wanderer presents it in a somewhat different way. No man may know wisdom till many a winter. This indicates that a man cannot be truly wise until he has experienced life and all of its hardships. The line, Wretchedness fills the realm of earth tells the reader that the earth is full of evil. The conclusion that fate s decree transform the world indicates that it is the fate of man to suffer so that he may see evil and harshness in life and attempt to put an end to it. The final lines of the poem, Good man is he who guardeth his faith,/ He must never too quickly unburden his breast/ Of its sorrow, but eagerly strive for redress suggests that man should place his faith in God, trust that God knows best, and that he strive to learn the lesson that his difficulties might teach him. The last line of the poem, And happy the man who seeketh for mercy/ From his heavenly Father, our fortress and strength indicates that God does not desert one during hardships, but that He offers him shelter and protection and will see him through his difficulties. Like The Seafarer, The Wanderer has a broad message that is made evident to the readers by the end of the poem. The overall message presented through The Wanderer is that in order for man to overcome his difficulties, he must go through the hard times, mourn for his past, fear what the future may hold, and finally trust that God is and always will take care of him. The anonymous writers of these two poems use imagery to express a universal theme, concerning all mankind, however, neither of them leave man without hope. They both conclude with the fact that life holds much harshness and then show the reader that it is acceptable to be frightened and confused by life as long as he puts his faith and trust in God. If he does this, God will take care of him forever.