The Seafarer

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Lines 80 to 102 contrast the dismal present with glorious past. What are the main points of contrast?

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droxonian eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this section of the poem, the speaker aligns himself with other old men who lament the time of great leadership—and great leaders—which is now gone, never to return. The speaker declares that now there are neither "cyningas ne caseras" (kings or Caesars, meaning emperors) of the sort who were givers of gold, nor worthy leaders of people who looked after those they ruled. These great kings of the past lived with "dryhtlicestum," or lordly majesty, as indicated by the fact that they went into battle with their men and performed great and valorous deeds. By contrast, the speaker judges the rulers of today to be weak men, who hold and enjoy the world but do not do enough to show themselves worthy of ruling it. The "old guard," the speaker says, has now long gone, and with them, the nobility he once knew in the world as a young man. His friends have been committed to the earth, and he can no longer "taste sweetness"—this world seems empty to him. He cannot even "golde stregan," strew with gold, the graves of his brothers as he would once have done, because this will no longer have the meaning it once had. The speaker seems to be suggesting that committing gold to a grave in this way will not have any effect on the Christian god they now worship, when previously it would have been a means of protecting the pagan dead.

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In the past there were "givers of gold"; now there aren't.
There was glory and the rulers were great. Not now.
Glory is diminished, and only the weak survive, and those by work, not wealth.
People age, and show the age in their faces.
People give a lot to decorate the coffins of the dead, but God's wrath is not appeased.
By implication, God used to favor the world.

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