What is your first impression of the speaker in this poem? What is his life like? What does he believe in and hope for?

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The poem is divided into three major sections, with the first dealing with the hardships of the seafaring life, the second with more positive aspects of seafaring, and the third with religion. In each of these sections, the narrator displays a different attitude and reveals more layers of his personality....

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The poem is divided into three major sections, with the first dealing with the hardships of the seafaring life, the second with more positive aspects of seafaring, and the third with religion. In each of these sections, the narrator displays a different attitude and reveals more layers of his personality. Thus the first impression derived from reading the initial section of the poem is superficial and incomplete.

The impression readers get from the initial section of the poem is that the narrator lives a life of extreme physical and metal hardship on long ocean voyages. He appears almost envious, but also slightly contemptuous, of people who live easy lives of luxury in cities. He describes loneliness and cold and hunger but even early in the poem seems to have positive feelings about seabirds. It is only as readers progress through the poem that they encounter a more positive view of the life of the seafarer and his deep piety.

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My first impression of the seafarer is that he is someone who has been through a lot, and it has made him somewhat philosophical and faithful. He feels that he experiences joys more deeply than those people who live on land because they get to experience such joys all the time. He is so used to feeling oppressed by cold and frost, alone on the sea, that it makes him more appreciative of the joyful times he has. The seafarer has had lots of time to consider the lives lead by people who live on land, and he seems to feel that their lives have not prepared them for death in the way that his has. He thinks that "The fruits are brought low" by those people who succumb to being busy all the time, and they miss the glories of the Lord. He believes and hopes that he will reap the rewards of his difficult life after death, in heaven.

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The narrator of "The Seafarer" is a broken person in some ways. He or she has likely suffered a great deal and lives a life of isolation and privation on the sea, far from the pleasures of city life. The narrator is likely not a rich person but one who has had to work hard for little gain. The narrator takes some comfort in the delights of nature, though he or she believes most in the eternal comforts of the afterlife and of God. He or she also believes in living with bravery and humility  so that people speak of him/her after death. The narrator says, "that is the best epitaph," meaning the best way to mark his or her grave. He or she hopes to remembered well and as a brave and good person after death. The narrator feels as though people have fallen from the time of the kings and that worldly delights are not as important as one's belief in God and in living life in God's service. 

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My first impression of the speaker in the Anglo-Saxon poem, "The Seafarer", is that this person leads a lonely and isolated life on the sea.  His job is very cruel and very hard work.  The seafarer describes the icy, cold winters spent on the sea ("Fettered by cold were my feet/bound by frost in cold clasps"), and then takes us through the rest of the seasons.  This poem is a reflection of the man's life.  He has endured great loneliness and isolation.  He has worked under severe and terrible conditions.  There has been little happiness; however, he believes in God and hopes that he has earned a place in Heaven after he dies.  He says that a seafarer never has to worry about what the Lord will do to him because his faith has never wavered.  He closes the poem by giving thanks to God:

Let there be thanks to God

that he adored us,

the Father of Glory,

the Eternal Lord,

for all time.  Amen.

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