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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englishteacher72's profile pic

englishteacher72 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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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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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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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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