Religion's Effect on The Wanderer

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Religion's Effect on The Wanderer


“He who is alone often lives to find favor” (Wanderer), but is he searching needlessly? In short, “The Wanderer” is an Old English poem of a man who is exiled due to the loss of his liege lord. The man then finds himself traveling the sea in search of a new land in which he could remain. His travel is accompanied by a lament from his heart. His heart has little hope, and even that is overpowered by the lament for the land he had just been exiled from. Yet hope still manages to find a place in this sad tale, for this oral poem was made into a manuscript by the Christian Monks around the year of 975 (Wanderer). “The Wanderer” is among many of the oral traditions of the Anglo-Saxon period that have been put into print. Through this transition of being spoken to now being read, “The Wanderer” has lost and gained different components of its original form.

If one were to remove the words of the author, the poem would be left with only a “sense of the harshness of circumstance and the sadness of the human lot” (Encarta), which is the average focus of poems spoken at the time. However, with the author interjecting phrases as simple as “So the wise man spoke in his heart” (Wanderer), it lifts the appeal of true harshness. The author takes this man’s most abstract and uneasy thoughts and gives a simple explanation for them, and this leads the reader to not judge the wanderer- based on his morbid thoughts- as much. The author does not go as far as to create sympathy for the wanderer, just far enough to create an understanding of him. No person wants to be judged based on personal thoughts, for things expressed only within the mind are not meant to be observed by others. It could create a wrong impression of a person, and that is what the author is making sure does not happen.

There is an “elegiac note [that] finds it most eloquent expression in ‘The Wanderer’” (“Wanderer”). However, because of the clergies inserting an author, this great sense of elegy is slightly altered due to the fact: it is not completely a reflective essay anymore, but mostly because the melancholy tone is lightened by the author’s explanation, which are two key components of elegy. Granted, it is believed to be one of the best examples of elegy, but it must have been more so before it was put into manuscript.

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The melancholy tone is almost depleted as the author states, “It will be well with him who seeks favor, comfort from the Father in heaven, where for us all stability resides” (Wanderer), which ends the poem. Melancholy surrounds the story because the tale of the wanderer truly is sad, however, with the ending the author provides, it sets the reader at ease knowing that he will not be filled with sadness for all eternity, there will be an end. The poem, before the author’s last paragraph, ends in a manner which leads the reader to believe that the wanderer has lost his home and is in search of something he will never find, another place to be happy. Yet, the author then resumes the poem in order to end it, and this end changes the meaning of the poem: from a man that will wander for eternity to a man that can rest assured an end will come, for heaven awaits him. It now ends with the circumstance that the wanderer does lose his home, and is searching for that which he cannot find on earth but will be granted we he reaches heaven, a home.

The Anglo-Saxon tale, “The Wanderer,” was influenced by the clergies, who put it into manuscript, through the means of the author in the poem. It has lost its sense of elegy and has gained a sense of Christianity. The ways in which the Anglo-Saxon tales have been altered differs from tale-to-tale, but in the case of “The Wanderer” the means was the author. It is still a great poem that reflects the lives of those who first conjured it, “where for us all stability resides” (Wanderer).


Works Cited

“English Literature.” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1993-1998.

“The Wanderer.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Seventh Edition. Volume 1. Ed. by M.H. Abrams, et al. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2000. 100-102.

“Wanderer, The.” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1993-1998.


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