Elegies are poems lamenting the dead or lost things. An elegy can be written about a deceased loved one or about a former way of life. Many Anglo-Saxon poems have at the very least an elegiac strain in them, such as Beowulf, which presents its hero's tribe as doomed to annihilation after he dies, or "The Wife's Lament," which ends with the wife uncertain if she will ever see her exiled husband again. "The Seafarer" also has elegiac elements, even though it is not a full elegy.
The poem concerns a man experiencing harsh conditions at sea. This man is also the speaker of the poem. In addition to his physical grievances, the speaker mourns the loss of his former life as a warrior. When speaking of his past, he conjures up images related to celebration and community. So full of longing for his former way of life is he that the speaker starts projecting impressions of the past onto his current environment:
There I heard nothing except the thrumming sea,
the ice-cold waves. Sometimes the swan’s...
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