What passages in the poem "The Seafarer" explain why the seafarer seeks the rigors of the sea rather than the delights of the land? Does he find what he has looked for at sea? 

Passages in the poem "The Seafarer" that explain why the speaker seeks the rigors of the sea rather than the delights of the land include those lines that explain how he wants to separate himself from the comforts of society because of his concern for his eternal soul.

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The seafarer is definitely bitten by a wanderlust that drives him to set out across the seas. Two passages that show this are the following. First, he writes,

And how my heart
Would begin to beat, knowing once more
The salt waves tossing and the towering sea!
The time for journeys would come and my soul
Called me eagerly out, sent me over
The horizon, seeking foreigners' homes.

Second, he states eloquently,

my heart wanders away,
My soul roams with the sea, the whales'
Home, wandering to the wildest corners
Of the world, returning ravenous with desire,
Flying solitary, screaming, exciting me
To the open ocean, breaking oaths
On the curve of a wave.

As these passages suggest, although the seafarer recognizes the comforts and many pleasures of life on land, something inside of him yearns to be on the open sea. His heart begins "to beat" and his soul "eagerly" looks forward to being on the waves, despite the deprivations he knows he must face there. These ideas are reiterated in the second passage, in which the seafarer states that his soul "roams" with the sea. Seafaring makes him "ravenous with desire." It is a challenge he finds "exciting."

The seafarer does find what he is looking for when he sets forth onto the empty ocean. The experience helps him to achieve an important perspective on life that brings him closer to God and helps him to find spiritual renewal. On the ocean, he recognizes that the things of civilization are fleeting and ephemeral. The sea brings him into a deeper and more felt relationship with God. Its rigors strip away what might stand between him and the divine source. The many dangers the ocean presents increase his awareness of his own vulnerability and his need to depend on God for protection.

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First, it's important to acknowledge that the speaker of the poem holds no idealized fantasies about life on the sea. He doesn't paint a picture of calmness and peace while out on the open water. Instead, he describes a cold and lonely journey of isolation:

He does not know this fact
who dwells most merrily on dry land—
how I, wretchedly sorrowful, lived a winter
on the ice-cold sea, upon the tracks of exile,
deprived of friendly kinsmen,
hung with rimy icicles.

He considers how his choice to journey on the "ice-cold" sea makes no sense to men who live on land. The journey is sorrowful and physically demanding. He returns to this idea of loneliness and of the divide that exists between him and those who live comfortably in the city:

Therefore he really doesn’t believe it—
he who owns the joys of life
and very little of the perilous paths, living in the cities,
proud and wine-flushed—how I must often
endure on the briny ways wearied.

Those who live civil lives, safe in the the comforts of society, look upon the speaker with confusion and even scorn. They cannot understand why he gives up a life that could be filled with people and comforts such as wine in order to journey again into the "briny" life on the sea.

Ultimately, the speaker feels that a comfortable life on land is dangerous, because it continually pulls him toward things that are not pleasing to God. Instead of seeking earthly comforts, he seeks the joy of the Lord:

Therefore they are hotter for me, the joys of the Lord,
than this dead life, loaned on land. How could I ever believe
that earthly weal will stand on its own eternally?

The speaker realizes that his discomfort is temporary and that the men who follow their earthly desires will ultimately fall and suffer an eternal condemnation. He is willing to place himself on the sea in order to separate himself from these temptations. He elaborates by noting that

Every man must keep himself with moderation,
to those beloved and those he deadly hates,
even though he may wish them be filled with flames
or burned up upon a pyre,
his own confirmed friend. Outcomes are stronger—
the Measurer mightier still—than the thoughts of any man.

This life of solitude on the sea keeps the speaker in a state of moderation. He believes that if he interacts with mankind too much, he will grow a "deadly hate" toward some of them, and that would lead to an outcome worse than anything mankind could imagine.

Thus, the speaker prefers the physical life of isolation and weariness on the sea so that his eternal soul is spared.

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The seafarer clearly thinks that life at sea is more difficult than life on land. The first part of the poem illustrates this in detail. Life at sea is defined in terms of coldness and loneliness. Life on land is described in terms of human company and warm feelings.

But the seafarer is drawn to a life at sea. Many critics interpret this to mean that the seafarer voluntarily chooses a life at sea. In other words, it is actually something in his own mind that impels him to seek adventure at sea, in spite of his fear: 

The time for journeys would come and my soul 

Called me eagerly out, sent me over 

The horizon, seeking foreigner's homes. 

He describes more luxuries of life on land, then follows it by saying that these things admonish (warn) the type of person who chooses to go to sea. Despite these warnings and even though the life is difficult and he is away from loved ones, he is "excited" by the ocean. So, he does find something from his life and contemplation of the sea. The adventure, danger, and excitement that sailing provides are experiences that he does not think he can have on land.

The poem shifts to notions of fate and God. Part of this continues with the theme that suffering through a storm at sea is analogous to facing adversity in life. And any comforts or rewards one gets in life do not have anything to do with Heaven. Therefore, the seafarer accepts his harsh life and recognizes that if he is to consider it in the encroaching influence of Christian thinking, then he must live humbly, accept his fate and/or put his faith in God: 

He who lives humbly has angels from Heaven

To carry him courage and strength and belief. 

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