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The Wanderer” Poem

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“The Wanderer” portrays the current situation of various speakers that are all intertwined. The poem goes into grave detail as to the feelings, hardships, and memories of the various speakers, leaving the reader feeling as if they were actually there. Of course, grave detail is just one of the ways the author puts the reader “within” the piece. The speaker uses alliteration, caesura, imagery, metaphors, and tone to establish the austere mood of the poem. As the poem unravels with such strong emotion, it pulls the reader in deeper with every line read. In the beginning of the poem, the speaker, or lone-dweller, “longs for relief” from his exile at sea. As the reader, we can feel the pain he is feeling and in some way can relate to his loneliness. He goes on to explain how everyone he loves is gone. It is to be assumed that everyone is gone because they have converted to Christianity and either been killed or exiled. He feels that there is no one to share his feelings with since he ultimately has no one. As he is exiled to sea and you can almost feel the cold moving in through your bones as does the lone-dweller. His hopeless tone is asserted by the alliteration used.

Repetitions such as “Wanderer weary, cruel combats, and alone always”, put emphasis on words that reflect the poems austere mood. This repetition ultimately helps to establish the speaker’s lonely state and the things that lead him to this point. Another device used is caesura, which means a break near the middle of the line. These breaks make the flow of the poem more dramatic. As the lone-dweller wallows in his fate, the pauses in the lines give imagery to tides. The line starts, pauses, and fades. Just as the tides of the oceans would come in, pause, and fade back out. This gives the reader the feeling that they are there, exiled in the “ice-cold seas” with the lone-dweller. It gives the reader a moment to reflect on what is being said, so it sits more deeply within. As the story of the speaker unfolds, we see the background that caused his current situation. This speaker is to be described as the “earth-dweller”. He is reminiscing about his lord, who was kind to him, and of the happy times he once experienced. Though he was happy at one point, the execution of his relatives and lord is what saddens him so greatly. He uses the metaphor of one’s heart to be compared to a treasure chest that must be locked tight. With this being said, he clearly feels that one’s emotions and thoughts are better kept “locked tight” within oneself.

He thinks to express these emotions and thoughts are a wrongdoing and no good can come out of it. He also states that with everyone gone he has no one to share these thoughts and feelings with and they are better left unsaid. To the reader this expresses his true feelings of loneliness and emptiness. The speaker metaphorically compares sorrow to a “traveling companion”, which emphasizes that his sorrow never leaves and he is almost haunted by it. Since he is so alone, sorrow really is his only companion. As his sorrow continues to linger, he reminisces about the happy life he once had. Deep imagery is portrayed as he dreams of his friend and lord, one that was gracious and kind. He dreams of feasting and companionship, but these dreams are quickly interrupted when “sorrow and sleep together bind the poor lone dweller in their embrace”. There is no more dreaming without soon realizing his current, miserable state. As he awakens, he sees the rolling waves and feels the falling hail and cold sleet as well.

It appears that his dreams leave him feeling warm and happy, but are fiercely interrupted by the cold pellets of hail coming down. This imagery is so clear and profound; the reader cannot help but feel the cold and sad state of the speaker. As referring to his awakening state, the poem reads, “Then the heart’s wound grows heavier, sadness for dear ones. Sorrow returns.” This use of caesura and short sentences show the abrupt realization of sorrow that is evermore. The speaker in this poem is but one person wrapped into multiple that are intertwined. We do not see this unfold until the end, but it is made evident that the speaker has gone through stages of emotion. These stages lead him to his current state at the end of the poem. Through tone we see this shift in the speakers emotion throughout the whole poem. He moves from lonely, exiled and miserable, to reminiscing of his past happiness, to gaining wisdom from his experience, to his final state of contentment and wisdom. The speaker says, “Therefore no one is wise without his share of winters in the world’s kingdom. A wise man must be patient…” then he leads into explain what traits a wise man must have. He realizes that you gain this wisdom through hard experiences or “winters” as he compares it.

He realizes that all things fall apart and nothing in this life is permanent. Before the speaker was dwelling in the fact that he was alone and everything he once knew is gone. Now, he has a new outlook: that all things must end, but it does not have to bring endless sorrow. A use of repletion is also used in order for the speaker to get his point across. “Here wealth is fleeting, here family is fleeting, here human kind is fleeting,” as stated by the speaker to once again explain that this life is not permanent nor are the people, places, and wealth we may experience. The ultimate goal is that of heaven “where a fortress stands for all”. The speaker embellishes his religious views by saying, “all will be well for him who seeks grace, help from our Father in heaven.” The end of this poem has a very enlightening mood as the speaker ponders his life and feels content. He is not bitter or angry from his experiences and instead he is inspirational. The speaker has gone through a physical journey as well as an emotional one that draws the reader into both his mind and physical being.


Bradley, S. “Anglo-Saxon Poetry.” London: Everyman. 1982: n. page. Web. 18 Feb. 2013. Kennedy, Charles. “The Earliest English Poetry.” London: OUP. 1943: n. page. Web. 18 Feb. 2013. David, Alfred. The Wanderer. Ninth. New York: W.W. Norton and Company , 2012. 117-120. Print.

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