The Seafarer Questions and Answers

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In "The Seafarer", what does the speaker say is different about life in his time as compared with life in the past?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The seafarer presents us with a picture of life upon Earth as fallen. In this he's developing the age-old Christian theme of the Fall, that humankind has occupied a state of sin ever since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden for their fateful act of disobedience against God. The seafarer's harsh, unforgiving life at sea can be seen as an allegory of man's postlapsarian existence, his life upon this earth after the Fall.

The former life he enjoyed was one of riches, fame, and glory. But the seafarer has come to see such a life as fleeting, its joys impermanent. Instead the yearnings of his soul can only be satisfied by, and come to rest in, God. Therein lies what really matters, what is of greatest value.

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The speaker describes the word in his time as rough, and imagines that things were wonderful before.

The Sea-farer is drawn to the sea, even though it’s a rough life.  He makes many comparisons, and one comparison he makes is between life in his time and the olden days “when the kingdoms of earth flourished in glory.”

Now there are no rulers, no emperors,

No givers of gold, as once there were,       

When wonderful things were worked among them

And they lived in lordly magnificence.

Things were great before, but now there is not much other than suffering.

The speaker comments that “the weakest survives and the world continues” because it is “kept spinning by toil.”  This reinforces the speaker’s descriptions of his difficult life at sea and how he is drawn back to it.

 

 

See the text here: http://www.enotes.com/seafarer/text-poem

See a "translated" text here: http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/English/Seafarer.htm

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