What are three quotes in the poem "The Wanderer" that show isolation?

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The poem "The Wanderer" first appeared in a tenth-century anthology called the Exeter Book . It is written in Anglo-Saxon, and its author is unknown. In the poem, the narrator wanders far from home in lonely exile. He has lost his lord, kinsmen, and fellow warriors in battle....

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The poem "The Wanderer" first appeared in a tenth-century anthology called the Exeter Book. It is written in Anglo-Saxon, and its author is unknown. In the poem, the narrator wanders far from home in lonely exile. He has lost his lord, kinsmen, and fellow warriors in battle. He ruminates philosophically in the midst of deep sorrow and laments that the brighter days he once knew are gone forever. Finally, as he sits in meditation, he considers that friends, family, and wealth all pass away, and that a wise man remains honest, controls his emotions, and seeks mercy and consolation from the Father in heaven.

The poem has several references to the wanderer's isolation. However, the poem was originally written in Anglo-Saxon and has to be translated into modern English. I have access to three different translations, and though the meaning is the same, the wording varies significantly. For this reason, I'll give you the line numbers of the quotations I suggest so that you can easily find them in the translation you have.

Line 1 of the poem mentions the "one alone," or "lone-dweller," or "lonely" man, who longs for love or awaits favor.

In line 5, the narrator relates that he "walks in exile's paths" or "the way of exile." An exile is someone who can no longer return to his own country. For this reason, exiles are often isolated and lonely.

Lines 9 through 12 emphasize the loneliness of the wanderer and the fact that he has no one to share his sorrows. One translation says,

Often alone, every first light of dawn,
I have had to speak my sorrows. There is no one living
To whom I would dare to reveal clearly
My deepest thoughts.

In lines 20 and 21, the wanderer confesses that he is "cut off from my homeland, far from dear kinsmen."

In line 40 he calls himself a "wretched exile," and in line 45 he declares himself to be a "friendless man."

In lines 50 and 51, his isolation is intensified as he remembers his relatives: "Sorrow is renewed when the mind flies out to the memory of kinsmen."

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Isolation and the idea of being exiled from one's group or clan is a key preoccupation of Anglo-Saxon poetry, indicating the importance of being part of the group to the Anglo-Saxons. A society bound by ideas of vassalage and social customs connecting lords and their soldiers, the idea of being "him anhaga"—the solitary one—was horrifying to the Anglo-Saxons.

There is a lot in this poem that drives home the sheer horror engendered by this idea in the Anglo-Saxon mind. The wanderer is "modcearig" or sad of heart; he is forced to "wadan wraeclastas" or tread the paths of an exile. Fate, or "wyrd," is invoked in the poem to suggest that this was not necessarily the fault of the wanderer but also that it is something he cannot change.

Words like "alone" are repeated in the poem: in line 8, the speaker laments that he has only himself to talk to about his troubles—there is nobody alive to whom he can speak his true thoughts. The speaker is "eðle bidæled," or far from his kinsmen, and as a result he is full of sorrow or "wintercearig"—literally, filled with the sadness and cares of winter.

The speaker uses imagery of coldness and ice, as well as of "fetters" or being bound, to underline the fact that he feels metaphorically cold. Away from the fires of the meadhall, he is also exiled from the warmth of a kinsman's love, and consequently, he lives a sorroweful existence on the cold sea. "Wyn eal gedreas," the wanderer says—all his joy has now died. This is the consequence of exile.

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The poem "The Wanderer" is filled with imagery that depicts the isolation that the Wanderer feels as he traverses the sea looking for friendship.

In the very first line, it becomes known that the wanderer is, in fact, alone.

Often the solitary one finds grace for himself.

This is, by far, the most obvious quote from the poem which speaks to the fact that the Wanderer is alone.

Another quote which speaks of solitude is

Often I had alone to speak of my trouble each morning before dawn.

This quote speaks to the fact that it is a very regular happening that the speaker finds himself alone with his thoughts. There is no one around "with whom I dare clearly speak of my innermost thoughts" shows that all of the people with whom the wanderer trusted are gone. Again, this shows his solitude.

One last quote that speaks to the solitude the wanderer feels is

Then the friendless man wakes up again.

Again, readers can see that there is no one with whom the Wanderer can speak with.

As a side note, there are many references to "fallow", "decay", and emptiness. All of these add to the fact that the Wanderer simply has no one.

 

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