The Wanderer Questions and Answers

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Using one example from each poem, compare the ways in which the following poems find artistic value, even beauty, in sorrow and longing: "The Wanderer," "The Seafarer," "The Wife's Lament."

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All three of these Anglo-Saxon poems are found in the Exeter Book, which dates to about 950 CE. They are all laments, and each expresses a speaker's experience of loneliness, isolation, and longing for better times. They all suggest the importance of community, and the desolation that can be experienced in the natural world without other people to share one's life with.

In "The Wanderer," the speaker laments as he stands on a cold, rocky beach, recalling times lost and trying to find the meaning in the suffering and loss that are an inevitable part of life. A quote that captures sorrow and longing is the following:

Then are the heart's wounds ever more heavy,
sore after sweet—sorrow is renewed—
when memory of kin turns through the mind.

The speaker in the above quote ruminates on the bittersweetness of memory, calling it "sore after sweet." The sweetness comes with the good memories of better times, but the soreness comes when memories cause one to miss beloved kin that are no more....

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