Compare and Contrast the Wanderer and the Seafarer
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When interpreting any type of literature, it is always important to attempt to divine the author’s purpose in creating the work. The poems “The Wanderer” and “The Seafarer” are no exception to the rule. Far from being simple and easily interpreted, they are both packed with content, purpose and hidden meaning, but while they may contain the same types of goals, the content and meaning differ drastically in many areas, anywhere from actual feelings and methods, to lessons and teachings.
These poems are not meant to be read as merely stories, but are to be taken as lessons for the way which the people hearing them live their own lives. They are both methods of teaching and communication, set upon the same background, that of the sea, with many similar views, such as those of God, “It’s good to find your grace in God, the heavenly rock where rests our every hope,” (The Wanderer), “God is mightier than any man’s mind. Our thoughts should turn to where our home is,” (The Seafarer), and of kings and kinship, “Where is the war-steed? Where is the warrior? Where is his war-lord?” (The Wanderer), “The days are gone when the kingdoms of earth flourished in glory; Now there are no rulers, no emperors, no givers of gold as there once were,” (The Seafarer). However, while they both teach lessons, they are of different subject material. The Seafarer’s theme is the struggle between home and the road, whereas the theme of the Wanderer is that of silent suffering.
Throughout the entire length of the Seafarer, there is a constant struggle between the author’s desire to face the elements, to battle nature, to feel the spray of mist on his face, “My soul roams with the sea, the whales’ home, wandering to the widest 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,” and his desire to remain on land, “But longing wraps itself around him. Orchards blossom, the towns bloom, fields grow lovely as the world springs fresh, and all these admonish that willing mind, leaping to journeys, always set in thoughts of traveling on a quickening tide.” These quotes emphasize the conflicting elements of the author’s conscience, his desire to be free, and his sense of guilt for his desire, best told by the passages “breaking oaths upon the curve of a wave,” and “All these admonish that willing mind, leaping to journeys.”
The conclusion of the inner struggle of the Seafarer was that he should rest at his true home, heaven. The conclusion however, seems insufficient as if parts of the argument are missing or the author is changing topics. The beginning of poem is a story, which then changes to a moral, which again shifts to a prayer, similar to The Wanderer in that they both contain all three aspects.
The struggle of the Wanderer is that of a completely different nature. He writes as an old man, giving advice to one coming after, speaking always of the virtue of silent suffering and placing faith in God, “My heart closed on itself, learning that silence is noble, and sorrow nothing that speech can cure,” and, “It’s good to guard your faith, let not your grief come forth until it cannot call for help, nor help but heed the path you’ve placed before it. It’s good to find your grace in God, the heavenly rock where rests our every hope.” The Wanderer does not seem to have any inner struggle, only regrets for opportunities passed, and a determination to bear his grief with strength, placing his faith in God.
The lessons these poems attempt to teach are significant, however different they might be, but both poems seem to end unsatisfactorily, the Seafarer with a sudden conclusion, and the Wanderer with a sense of uncertainty. The final lines of the poem seem to imply bitterness and possibly regrets with the decisions that have led the author to where he is. However, this may be intended, meant to imply that there is a point at which we must trust something greater than ourselves, in the cases of both of these poems, God.
The poems, while both conveying points in an effective and similar manner, are so diverse in their viewpoints and arguments that they have almost no similarities in their concepts other than trust in God. Their arguments, while not being opposite, are not related in almost any manner except the way in which they are communicated. They use a setting of power, symbolism and meaning to accomplish their purposes. Much greater than being merely stories of seamen, these are the preserved remains of Anglo-Saxon concepts, a clear example of the thoughts which occupied them, with relevance even today.