The Seafarer

Author Anonymous (c.750), translated by Kline, A. S. (contact-email)

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The Seafarer is an Anglo-Saxon poem dating back to the tenth century, preserved within the Exeter Book. Typically classified as an elegy, it presents a sailor’s reflections on his harsh sea life contrasted with the comforts of land living. Scholars interpret the work as a retrospective musing by an aged mariner on his past seafaring existence, marked by the isolation and adversity of winter voyages. The narrative passes through the seasonal cycle of both lamenting the vicissitudes of the sea whilst till yearning for its freedoms. As the focus moves from the temporal world, the poem evolves into a sermon on the transient nature of earthly joys, urging moral fortitude against evil and highlighting the inability of wealth to aid in the afterlife. It concludes with aphoristic lines on divine concepts, culminating in the word Amen.

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Kline, A. S.

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