Please explain banishment in "The Seafarer," "The Wanderer," and "The Wife's Lament." 

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All three poems are elegies, which are poems that mourn the loss of a place, person, item, or even state of being. Elegies are sorrowful in tone as a result. Though all three of these poems do not deal with similar losses, they do feature speakers who feel banished in one way or another, both literally and spiritually.

"The Seafarer" describes a retired sailor who misses his life on the ocean. Even though he is comfortable and surrounded by kinsmen on land, he misses the adventure of the often-hard life on the sea. It doesn't matter that he was uncomfortable or in peril on the sea; it made him feel alive. He feels like an alien on land, hence the sense of banishment. All of the speakers in these poems have lost the communal warmth of their former lives in some way.

"The Wanderer" is about a person who has lost his tribe. He remembers the mead hall where the warriors and their lord gathered to commune with one another. Though he was not literally banished from his people, he has lost them to death and thus considers his loneliness a kind of exile.

"The Wife's Lament" features a woman whose lord has left for a faraway land, and her attempts to follow him end with her forced to live in a hole by her husband's kinsmen. She lives in literal exile, unlike the other two poems, and her longing for her husband amplifies her sorrow.

The first two of the poems evoke heaven and the afterlife as the solution to these feelings of banishment. In heaven, there is communal joy and reunion compared to the ephemeral nature of life on Earth where people die. Interestingly, in "The Wife's Lament," the speaker seems too consumed with sorrow to find any transcendence in her banishment.

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All three of these poems are Anglo-Saxon elegies, meaning that they are mourning for something that they have lost. 

In The Seafarer, the sailor is mourning the fact that he is becoming too old to do the work he loves which is sailing and living on the ships.  He tells us that life on land is more comfortable, but that he does not relish the women, food, or drink.  Even in the coldest, most uncomfortable weather, he simply loves being on the sea and his soul longs for it when he is not there.  The banishment in this poem is the banishment of age...making him physically unable to further the work he enjoys.

In The Wanderer, the speaker is lamenting the loss of his lord, probably through death, and is suffering a "banishment" as his services are no longer needed on the property.  He tells of the hardships of a life of transience and longs for a more settled life as he had before. 

In The Wife's Lament, the speaker is lamenting the loss of her husband or lover and his family.  It makes more sense being simply a "lover" since there is not legal connection, but in any sense, his death has caused her "banishment" from the family household and properties.  Her pain of the separartion is apparent, and understandable since human beings are social beings. 

In all of these poems, there is a hint at the speaker's former situtation as "heaven" and perfect, and the separation is symbolic of a separation from God and that perfection.

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