Anglo-Saxon elegies deal with male camaraderie and the bond between man and his creator. Although there are many elegies, The Seafarer and The Wanderer are two of the most prominent. Both of these elegies deal with the loss of social society and the quest for a Christian sense of being close to God. There are many similarities and differences between the two poems. Some of the differences will be discussed here. These differences include point of view, style or form, and mood.
Understanding of the elegies will also be discussed here. The point of view for The Seafarer is first person narrative. The speaker tells the story as if he really experienced the events. The speaker makes statements like, "how I in harsh days / Hardship endured oft". (3-4). The readers view this as an experienced perspective.
In The Wanderer, the point of view varies. It begins with first person and then changes between third person and first person. The speaker makes references to his own experiences and then offers suggestions for action. The speaker seems to have an activist point of view, whereas the speaker for The Seafarer has a pacifist point of view.
The styles of the two poems are very different. In The Seafarer, the language is difficult to understand and the sentences or lines are very rough. This allows for some misinterpretation among readers and listeners. The Wanderer is put into a more organized and structured form. When reading The Seafarer, the reader must concentrate and pay close attention to what the speaker is saying. The complicated structure and the abstract form distract the reader.
The reader of The Wanderer is able to focus on the meaning the speaker is trying to communicate because the thoughts are in an organized fashion. This allows the reader to get a more in depth understanding and interpretation of the central message. The differences described previously, lead to the mos important difference of all, the mood. The mood of The Seafarer is dark and dreary. This is partly due to the pacifist feelings that the speaker has.
It seems as if the speaker is on a life or death quest for a relationship with God but takes no action to get the companionship needed for survival. In The Wanderer the speaker seems to take an active role in finding the quest for God. He does this through his suggestions of behavior and plans of action. This allows The Wanderer to have a more hopeful and brighter mood in the situation. The Seafarer seems to be completely submerged in despair. The overall meaning of The Seafarer seems to be that if you are passive, no matter what happens if you do not take action, your goals will never be achieved.
No matter what the speaker does, he cannot find that coveted bond with God. The speaker has been exiled and the only friend he has is God but he does not seem to be able to find God's companionship. The meaning of The Wanderer comes across as a lesson to be learned from the speaker. He gives wonderful advice to the reader on what to do in a situation similar to the one he is in. The speaker is taking an active approach in order to meet his goal. The speaker of this poem has also been exiled but has hope that if he follows a Christian set of rules, he will find God's love and friendship.
The interpretations of these elegies can be very different, yet very similar. The speakers have been through similar situations, beginning with exile, and are now feeling sad and lonely. They are separated from their friends, family, and God. The difference is, The Seafarer has only despair, but The Wanderer has a twig of hope. With these similarities and differences, readers can misinterpret and misunderstand the message of the elegies. The point of view sets the style, the style sets the mood, and the mood allows for understanding and meaning.
The real understanding of the elegies come from experience, research, and knowledge.