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In "The Seafarer," loneliness and alienation are themes referred to often by the poem's speaker. The seafarer describes loneliness on the water in the following quote using imagery that describes a wintery, frozen world, where he is sorrowful, a world without love, but filled with ice: no warmth of companionship to be had.
How wretched I was, drifting through winter
On an ice-cold sea, whirled in sorrow,
Alone in a world blown clear of love,
Hung with icicles
In the following quote, the narrator uses "chains" symbolically to describe his sense of alienation or exile.
My feet were cast
In icy bands, bound with frost,
With frozen chains, and hardship groaned
Around my heart.
And finally, the seafarer again describes his loneliness when he describes that which welcomes him on the sea: the sound of bird crying in the emptiness instead of laughter; no companionship of friends or family (kinsmen) shared over a glass of mead (wine).
The song of the swan
Might serve for pleasure, the cry of the sea-fowl,
The death-noise of birds instead of laughter,
The mewing of gulls instead of mead.
Storms beat on the rocky cliffs and were echoed
By icy-feathered terns and the eagle's screams;
No kinsman could offer comfort there,
To a soul left drowning in desolation.
All of these quotes offer an overall sense of the misery that life on the ocean brings the seafarer. Ironically, also seems more comfortable on the sea, even if alone, when he thinks of the company of society and what society pursues for its pleasure. It is not for him. However, in choosing to leave city life behind, he is isolated yet again.
And who could believe, knowing but
The passion of cities, swelled proud with wine
And no taste of misfortune, how often, how wearily
I put myself back on the paths of the sea.
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