To what does the speaker compare the relationship between man and sea in "The Seafarer"?

Expert Answers

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The narrator explains the relationship between the man and the sea as the experience of life itself.  The sea, like life, is a dangerous and unpredictable place.  It is ice-cold, full of storms and "smashing surf".  It causes the seafarer to feel isolated and "wretched".

And yet, the seafarer continues to return to the sea, claiming that it has an undeniable pull:

The time for journeys would come and my soul
Called me eagerly out, sent me over
The horizon, seeking foreigners' homes.

This is representative of the pull of life, the drive of the human to push on through the troubling pains that come with every existence, to continue to seek and grow.  The narrator uses this comparison to reinforce the power of God and the need for the human to rely on God's power and mercy:

but nothing
Golden shakes the wrath of God
For a soul overflowing with sin, and nothing
Hidden on earth rises to Heaven.
We all fear God. He turns the earth,
He set it swinging firmly in space,
Gave life to the world and light to the sky.
Death leaps at the fools who forget their God.

That narrator suggest that, just as the seafarer maintains a delicate balance in his relationship with the sea, humans must maintain a similar balance in life.  They must strike forward to assert themselves, while always conscious of God's judgement and will.

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