The Seafarer (poem)

The Seafarer is an Old English poem recorded in the Exeter Book, one of the four surviving manuscripts of Old English poetry. It is 124 lines and is commonly referred to as an elegy, a poem that mourns a loss or more generally a sorrowful piece of writing. It is told from the point of view of an old seafarer, who is reminiscing and evaluating his life as he has lived it: "This where we have a home, /and then devise how we may come there.” (117-118). Though this poem begins as a narrative of a man’s life at sea, it becomes a praise of God. Heaven is a goal for man to reach by living a good, honourable life. This is a reward to man for believing and having faith, as well as a reward for God who “has honoured us for all time” (124). This is reminiscent of the old adage of a teacher learning much from his students, or more appropriately a father learning from his children. God is shown here as not only one who is to be honoured, but also one who bestows honour onto others.


The Seafarer has been translated numerous times by many scholars such as Dr. Sean Miller, who offers a clear copy of the original text as well as his own translation. American expatriate poet, Ezra Pound also offered his own translation of The Seafarer. Pound’s translation varies much from the original text in that it utilises the literary tool of alliteration very frequently as well as its lack of religious references. This was first published in Pound’s Ripostes in 1912 and it translates only the first 99 lines (Conway).

This poem demonstrates the fundamental Anglo-Saxon belief that life is shaped by fate.

See also


  • Brown, Phyllis R. "The Seafarer.” Medieval England: An Encyclopedia. 1998.
  • The Exeter Book Part Two. Original Series. London: Oxford University Press, 1933.
  • Conway, David. "Ezra Pound." Wikipedia. 2006. 20 Nov 2007 .
  • Lancashire, Ian. "Ezra Loomis Pound: The Seafarer." Representative Poetry Online. 2005. University of Toronto Libraries. 20 Nov 2007 .
  • Miller, Sean. "The Seafarer." Anglo Saxons. 1997. 20 Nov 2007 .
  • Sobecki, Sebastian. "The Interpretation of The Seafarer: A Re-examination of the Pilgrimage Theory."
  • The Seafarer: an Italian translation

External links

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