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Anonymous. "The Wanderer".


(from Norton + my own reading)

An elegiac lament of one man on the loss of a lord, of companions in arms and of a mead hall. Movingly captures the dreary loneliness of an exile in search of a new lord and hall

Formally consists of a first person soliloquy which is interrupted but once at the beginning by the voice of the poet who briefly introduces the speaker. The text heavily employs pathetic fallacy: nature seems to conspire to match the man's mood. The season is winter, corresponding to the chilly feelings the speaker experiences.


(from Norton + my own reading)

The elegy begins with the voice of the speaker who finds himself lonely at the sea. The speaker is then identified by the poet as an 'earth-walker' who reflects on what he had lost and seeks to replace his loss.

The exile continues his soliloquy without further interruptions by the poet's voice. The exiled man has nobody whom he could address and so must keep his sorrows closed in his heart. In sleep he dreams about his grateful lord and his dear kinsmen all of whom he had lost in battles. When he wakes up, the vision disappears over the water like seabirds.

The exile expands the theme from his personal loss to a larger loss of all human beings in a world wasted by war and time. He contemplates the relationship of time and wisdom. He reflects on ageing, himself having already lost his youth. He continues to see decay and death throughout the whole world. He sees nothing but ruins reminding him of its former inhabitants. Human beings seem to have died out.

The lament concludes with a characteristic Old English injunction to practice restraint on earth and place one's hopes only in heaven. The unstable earthly existence is contrasted to the stable heavenly afterlife.


  • Author

  • Full Title

    "The Wanderer".
  • Composed

    End of 10th century.
  • Form

    Narrative poem.

Works Cited

Abrams, M. H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1999.

Anonymous. "The Wanderer".  The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M. H. Abrams. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1999. 99-102.


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