In line 80 of "The Seafarer" the speaker begins to talk about the present state of the world.  What does he think of it? How do these thoughts contribute to the poem's elegiac tone?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Old English Anglo-Saxon poem “The Seafarer” is thematically divided into three sections. In the first section the speaker describes his travels on the cold and dangerous sea, creating a metaphor for a long and difficult spiritual journey. In the second section the speaker longs for a world that no longer exists. The third section is almost like a sermon, in which the speaker seems to be addressing the reader, telling him/her how to live a good, Godly life.

Your question is concerned with the second section of the poem. The speaker is lamenting the deterioration of society, as he sees it. Here are the first lines of this section:

The days are gone

When the kingdoms of Earth flourished in glory

These lines sound very Anglo-Saxon, with their emphasis on kingdoms and glory. The way the speaker sees it, the world he has known is passing away. He goes on to mention “glory” again:

All glory is tarnished.

The word “tarnished” works especially well here, because the speaker has made several mentions of “gold” in the poem. The idea that the world is changing in a negative way is reinforced by the image of something that was once beautiful, gold, changing and losing its beauty.

The speaker's point of view is commonly held by people as they begin to get older and witness changes in the world that challenge their ideas of what is right and good. We still feel the same way today. Every generation mourns what it sees as the loss of its values.

The speaker's mournful tone explains why he is willing to put himself on the open sea in search of spiritual fulfillment—the world no longer has meaning to him, so he is searching for meaning by searching for God.