The Wanderer is an elegiac poem. Describe the scope of his lament.

The scope of the wanderer's lament is very wide indeed. He's sad for the loss of a way of life that shaped his entire being. Far from friends, family, and society, he's forced back on his own limited resources. Thankfully, he's able to find comfort and solace in embracing Christianity.

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Anglo-Saxon warriors and poets lived in or near the mead hall of their lord. They depended on their lord for their land and their sustenance in return for loyalty in battle and entertainment in the mead hall. The lord showered his followers with gifts and security, and the followers, called...

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Anglo-Saxon warriors and poets lived in or near the mead hall of their lord. They depended on their lord for their land and their sustenance in return for loyalty in battle and entertainment in the mead hall. The lord showered his followers with gifts and security, and the followers, called the "comitatus," or the thanes, graciously accepted the gifts and basked in the security. So when something went wrong—when a thane (be he a warrior or a poet) was deprived of his lord by death or exile—that thane's whole world came apart at the seams. He was set adrift in a bleak, hostile world and faced with a lonely, sad existence.

This is exactly what has happened to the wanderer and what he laments. He is an "anhaga," a lone-dweller (line 1), who travels, "modcearig," heart-troubled (line 2), over the "hrimcealde sæ," frost-cold sea (line 3). His beloved kinsmen have fallen in battle; not one is still living. He is deprived of his home and his "goldwine," his gold-friend (line 22), his lord who once showered him with gifts. He no longer has a mead hall to call home or friends to comfort him. He is drifting alone in exile with only his memories for company, and those memories of "selesecges," hall-warriors (line 34), and "sincþege," treasure-receiving, come fast and furious until the wanderer exclaims that all his joy has failed.

The wanderer recalls a time when he once lay his hands and head on his lord's knees as a sign of loyalty, as his "manndryhten," liege-lord (line 41), sat upon the "giefstoles," gift-seat (line 44), but those days are long past. All the wanderer sees now are the fallow waves and seabirds, the frost, and the snow as he grieves for his lost companions and his lost joys.

As the poem continues, the wanderer's lament expands to a more general sorrow about the passing nature of the earth. Everything fades away: people, wealth, dwellings, achievements. Nothing lasts. Everything decays. Men fall in death. Mead halls crumble. Glory departs. The wanderer asks what has become of the horse and the warrior and the treasure-giver and the feasts and the hall-joys he once knew. They are gone, never to return.

Yet not all is lost. The wanderer takes comfort in his Christian faith, trusting in the consolation of God and in the permanence to be found in Him alone.

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The eponymous wanderer of the poem has a lot to lament. His entire way of life has been taken away from him. His friends, his family, the Anglo-Saxon culture which formed and shaped his very being, are all now a thing of the past. In essence, the wanderer is not the man he used to be, and that's a source of considerable sorrow.

To make matters worse, the wanderer is all alone upon the icy seas, which merely adds to his overriding sense of loneliness and compounds the sense of loss that he feels. Anglo-Saxon culture prized gregariousness, and so for the wanderer, or anyone else from this culture, to be alone for any length of time is a real challenge, to say the least.

Thankfully, all is not lost. The wanderer has found some degree of comfort and solace in the Christian religion, which has allowed him to be born again as a whole new person. Yet it's notable that Christianity, for all the obvious benefits it may have brought the wanderer, cannot prevent him from lamenting over the life he's left behind. As if we didn't already know, the wanderer's former life continues to exert a very powerful hold upon him.

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"The Wanderer," like another Anglo-Saxon elegy for a lost world, "The Seafarer," centers on the sadness of a man who has lost his lord, his friends, and his way of life as a pagan. It also depicts the consolation he feels in his new belief system founded on Christianity. In essence, the speaker is moving between two worlds, and he is clearly saddened to lose one but gladdened by the peace offered by the other.

The wanderer, even though he "finds himself grace, the mercy of the Lord" (l. 1a-1b), recounts (as the seafarer does in "The Seafarer") his sorrowful journey through life:

So I, very often wretched and sorrowful, having lost my homeland/ far from noble kinsman, having had to chain my innermost thoughts/. . . and wretched I from there/traveled in sorrow/over the frozen waves/ sought, sad because I have no hall,/ a giver of treasure. . . .(ll. 19a-25b)

Here, the wanderer's mind goes back to his pre-Christian life. He laments his loss of family, friends, and his lord ("giver of treasure"). Perhaps more important, he has no one with whom he can share his sorrow because his thoughts have been chained within him by his isolation.

In perhaps the most powerful elegiac statement in Anglo-Saxon poetry, the wanderer sums up the life he has lost:

Where is the horse gone? Where is the rider?  Where is the treasure-giver?/Where are the feast-benches? . . . Woe for the shining cup!  Woe for warrior in his armor! . . . How that time has passed away . . . as if it had never been. (ll. 92a-96b)

All the important aspects of the wanderer's pagan life—powerful warriors, feasts, a generous leader, comrades—have disappeared from the world, and one gets the sense in this lament that the wanderer is the last survivor of a way of life that has not only passed away but also been forgotten by all but the wanderer. (These lines, by the way, appear in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings in Chapter 6, in Aragorn's lament for Rohan.)

Even though the wanderer ends his lament with a hopeful thought, part of his new Christian belief system—"consolation from the father in heaven, where all permanence rests for us"—the poem remains a powerful reflection of the sadness created when a world and belief system disappear.

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"The Wanderer" is a typical Anglo-Saxon elegy. Elegies are meant to lament the loss of a loved one--providing a reflection of the loss. The scope of the Wanderer's loss is huge. Not only has he lost all that he has loved, he tells of the loss of the all he has known in life--from kings to great walls.

In the first part of the tale, the Wanderer defines how the loss of his homelands (in his exile, a theme common in Anglo-Saxon texts), his friends and family, and his king have forced the Wanderer to reexamine his life. Compounding the loss of the people around him, the Wanderer recognizes the loss of everything he has ever known in life. The poem depicts the "wealth of the world" lying in waste, decaying walls, and the death of both the winners and losers of battles.

Essentially, the scope of the Wanderer's lament is all encompassing. All has been lost to him but one thing: God. While faced with losing everything he has ever known, the Wanderer realizes that one's faith is all that matters in the end. Therefore, while all material things and life may end, one may stand strong in the fact that faith will never end. It is eternal.

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