Exile and Pain In Three Elegiac Poems


There is a great similarity between the three elegiac poems, The Wanderer, The Wife of Lament, and The Seafarer. This similarity is the theme of exile. Exile means separation, or banishment from ones native country, region, or home. During the Anglo Saxon period, exile caused a great amount of pain and grief. The theme is shown to have put great sadness into literature of this time period. The majority of the world's literature from the past contains the theme of exile.

The Wife of Lament is another perfect example of literature with exile, and was written by an unknown author. The most striking example of exile in this poem can be seen in the passage when she says, "A song I sing of sorrow unceasing, the tale of my trouble, the weight of my woe, woe of the present, and woe of the past, woe never-ending of exile, and grief, but never since girlhood greater then now." The woman's husband left her in a life of exile, after he left. She is constantly looking for him, and finds a life that is quite similar to being locked away in prison. She is locked up in a cave under a tree. Her joy comes from thinking that her husband is as miserable as her.

In the first passage from the poem, The Wanderer, it speaks of exile by saying, "To the wanderer, weary of exile cometh Gods pity, compassionate love, though woefully toiling on wintry seas with churning oar in the icy wave, homeless and helpless he fled from fate." It can be easily seen, in this passage, how common exile was in the poem, but also what a great pain it must have been to deal with the trial. The author continually describes how incredibly miserable he is living his life in exile, how awful it is to have to live without the guidance from a higher rank being a lord and king in this case, how there is no one to talk to and to share ones feelings with, and how there is no money or riches of any kind? for a man who is living in exile. For the most part, the poem is sad and depressing and the reader easily sees what this man is going through and how terrible it must be for him to live without all the things many others take for granted everyday of their lives. The author of this poem, who has obviously been exiled, does an exquisite job of showing, maybe even teaching, to the reader how important the things are that you lose in life when exiled, no matter how rich or poor you are. You take the greatest loss of all when you are exiled, you take the loss of losing everything that makes it seem purposeful for you to live out the day you just began. This is obviously the idea the author is trying to get across in this poem.

Throughout the poem The Seafarer, also composed by an unknown author, it is obvious that the man is not exiled directly in the ways people have been exiled in the other poems, however being stuck on a ship is in many ways quite similar to being exiled from your homeland. Numerous passages in this poem show this mans painful life at sea. The one that stands out most greatly to me is this passage; "No man sheltered on the quiet fairness of earth can feel how wretched I was, drifting through winter on an ice-cold sea, whirled in sorrow, alone in a world blown clear of love, hung with icicles." This man may not have been exiled in the same way that the others had been, however his life was full of misery and nothing seemed right for him, as shown in the quote. The things everyone takes for granted, when living on land, he missed because all he knew was the wretched sea and all the misery it was causing him. Among the things he desperately missed were mead, a drink made of fermented honey, his lord, and his friends voices. To some these things might seem amazingly simplistic, however anyone stuck at sea would start to miss the simplest things that they never even thought twice about getting, and begin to miss them more incredibly