Why does the seafarer choose a life at sea in spite of its hardships in "The Seafarer"?For example, like the feelings he expresses and the problems recounted and the view of fate expressed.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Anglo-Saxon work, "The Seafarer," the speaker refers to himself as an exile.  He has no home but the sea. 

First, his former world vanished.  His lord and protector, it seems, was in the past killed or vanquished and conquered.  The speaker's home was lost.  He mourns for the loss of his way of life:  thus the poem's status as an elegy.  The speaker would have been a member of a community led by a lord.  But central government did not exist in Anglo-Saxon England.  Might, indeed, made one right during this period of history in England.  Communities came and went quickly, or came then changed leaders and members quickly.  The losers of a battle were kicked off the land.

Since living in exile, the speaker has, apparently, developed a prejudicial us-them attitude toward land lovers, as we might call them today--those who don't spend most of their lives on the sea.  Land dwellers do not suffer like he does, according to the speaker, and thus he is bitter toward them.   

Since he doesn't have the home of his former years, and since he despises those who live in the cities, he spends his time on the sea, though suffering is often the result.

There is also a small bit of the speaker simply being a person who wants to travel and see other people's homes and distant lands.  As he writes, his "heart wanders away," and his "soul roams with the sea."  This urge to wonder, however, is clouded by his loss, his suffering, and his hatred. 

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator of the "Seafarer" speaks in heartrending terms of the loneliness of his life on the sea and his inability to savor the delights of the shore. However, there are some compensations for his life at sea that he discusses toward the end of the poem. He states, "I do not believe/that the riches of the world/will stand forever." He believes that the glories of earthly existence, including the amassing of wealth, do not matter when one dies. Instead, one must desire, as the narrator says, "the praise of the living." To earn this praise, which will outlast death, a person must be brave and do battle for God. The narrator says toward the end of the poem, "God is mightier / than any man's thought." In other words, the seafarer has the opportunity to gain fame for his bravery and his godliness through his life on the sea. These rewards are, in the end, worthier compensations than gold or temporary delights.