The Anglo-Saxon poems, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and The Wife’s Lament

The Anglo-Saxon poems, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and The Wife’s Lament

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The Anglo-Saxon poems, “The Wanderer,” “The Seafarer,” and “The Wife’s Lament”


The Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, era of England lasted from about 450-1066 A.D. The tribes from Germany that conquered Britain in the fifth century carried with them both the Old English language and a detailed poetic tradition. The tradition included alliteration, stressed and unstressed syllables, but more importantly, the poetry was usually mournful, reflecting on suffering and loss.1These sorrowful poems from the Anglo Saxon time period are mimetic to the Anglo-Saxons themselves; they reflect the often burdened and miserable lives and times of the people who created them. The Anglo-Saxon poems, “The Wanderer,” “The Seafarer,” and “The Wife’s Lament,” are three examples how literature is mimetic, for they capture the culture’s heroic beliefs of Fame and Fate, the culture’s societal structure, and religious struggle of the Old English time period: making the transition from paganism to Christianity.

In order to understand how these poems mirror the Anglo-Saxons’ lives, one must know a little history about the culture. In the fifth century, the inhabitants of the island of Britain hired German mercenaries to defend them against their warring neighbors, the Picts and the Scots. 2 After having defeated the enemies, the pagan Angles, or Saxons, revolted against their former allies, the Britons, killing everyone, no matter what their status or occupation, destroyed towns and buildings, and drove out Christianity, the Britons’ religion. The conquerors were Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Franks, and Frisians, but they all had a similar culture so they became known as Anglo-Saxons. 3

Anglo-Saxons set up Germanic kingdoms, each one ruled by a lord. In the...


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...Norton & Company, 1975.


B. Journal Articles

Bruce, Alex. “Exploring the Soul: The Wanderer’s Search for Meaning.” Matheliende.
Volume III, Number I (Fall, 1995). http://parallel.park.uga.edu/~abruce/mathiii1.html


C. Web Sites

Anglo-Saxon England. Internet WWW page, at URL:
http://encarta.msn.com/find/concise.asp?ti=761572205&sid=26#s26

Anglo-Saxon Life—Kinship and Lordship. Internet WWW page, at URL:
http://www.britainexpress.com/History/anglo-saxon_life-kinship_and_lordship

The Anglo-Saxon Period. Internet WWW pate, at URL:
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/3878/Saxon.html

English Literature. Internet WWW page, at URL:
http://encarta.msn.com/find/Concise.asp?z=1&pg=2&ti=761558048

St. Vede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Internet WWW page at URL:
http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/reading/St.Pachomius/bede1_15.html

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The Anglo-Saxon poems, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and The Wife’s Lament

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