The Wanderer

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What Christian attitudes are found reflected in the following elegies: "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer?"

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Like many of the Anglo-Saxon texts that have been preserved, these poems come out of a pagan oral tradition. When Christianity spread to Britain and Northern Europe, the old poems acquired a Christian element that sometimes stands in contrast to their pagan roots. 

Both poems reflect on the bitter lonliness of the life of the traveller and the hardship of sea voyages. In “The Wanderer ,” the poet has lost his people; he is utterly alone in the world: there is none alive to whom he dares express his “innermost thoughts;” he contemplates the fallen state of the world—“Indeed I cannot think / why my spirit / does not darken / when I ponder the whole / life of men / throughout the world, / How they suddenly left the hall, / the proud thanes.” In The Wanderer, the ultimate evil of the pagan world—to be without kinsmen, utterly forgotten—is conflated with a kind of cosmic or spiritual destruction: “all the foundation of this world / turns to waste!” The Christian god is...

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