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June 17, 2014

The Wanderer

‘The Wanderer ‘is the poem that was written in 8th or 8th century and reflects upon the historical Anglo-Saxon life, including the effects of Christianity on society of that age. The poem combines both the Anglo- Saxon and Christian Heroic elements in its structure and context. The two elements have been presented in the poem side by side with an aim to provide a contrasting theme between the fleeting or impermanent nature of this world and the permanence and safety which is assured by the ‘Heavenly Kingdom’.
The text of ‘The Wanderer’ has been arranged to enclose two separate periods of time, which undoubtedly disclose the contrast in themes. In the first part of the poem, the warrior who has lost his lord as well as kin, is reflecting upon his past experiences. The poem here starts to reveal the underlying theme of the transitory world. The text portrays three conditions of lonely wanderer which moves on from memory towards dream and then ultimately towards hallucination. These past experiences are of a wanderer whose spirit and mind charged with sorrows and laments.
The realization of what he lacks now, in-voluntarily takes him into the reminiscences of the past happy days with his lord and the fellow kin. His distressed body and mind longs for the happiness of the past which pushes him into the realm of pleasurable thoughts of the past. As he recalls past, he realized that the joys of past has vanished and he is lonely.
The Wanderer suddenly falls into deep sleep which takes him into the world of dreams, where he participates in ceremony of performing gratitude to his Lord. But when he wakes up from the slumber, the dawn of reality hurts him again and his wounds become more penetrating.
After that dream, the wanderer goes through hallucination of his fellow warriors. The images of the past pleasurable life invade his imagination as if they are real. "sorrow renews as the memory of his kinsman moves through his mind: he greets them with glad words, eagerly looks at them, a company of warriors" (69). He realizes that all these are mere mirage and just vision of the past which reminds, the wanderer, about the lack of control he has on his life.
These experiences and reflections of the Wanderer are taken to the second half of the poem which includes the theme about the existence of man. He laments his experiences of the past and what they have taught him. He now wants that all the men should understand that all the things could be lost with ‘swiftness’, as the life is unstable and of fleeting nature. The memories of the past and realization about the reality of life, he has become detached from it. Now he has started perceiving life from a detached perspective. His state of mind has changed from being sorrowful towards reflecting upon the realities of life.
This same theme of transitory world and impermanence of life has been expressed in these lines (08,109,110) Here wealth is fleeting, here friends are fleeting, here man is fleeting, here woman is fleeting, all the framework of this earth will stand empty. The wanderer explains to man that this world is not stable and the fate of man is not in his control. In fact, fate is the ruler of the world which makes this world a place of sorrows and dejections.
The two levels of this general theme of transient world have been dealt in ‘The Wanderer’. One is suggestive of the disappearance of man and the other is suggestive of the disappearance of his world. The wanderer’s underlying motive is to encourage the warrior to understand the reality of this world and comprehend that life is of fleeting nature. He makes it a point that not only the worldly structure is destroyed with the passage of time, man also fades away along with them. He concedes that "Wine-halls totter" and that "all the company has fallen" (69). This has already been evidently revealed through the past experiences of the wanderer.
The fate is the ultimate king which rules the world and the life of man and which makes the world a wretched place to live, as he says, "all earth's kingdom is wretched' (69). The worldly life and world itself is ever changing, filled with uncertainty, reality of loss and sufferings which accompany the instability of life. Everything in this world is of transient nature whether it is wealth, friends or woman and ultimately "all this earthly habitation shall be emptied" (70). A man cannot gain any comfort from the worldly things as they have fleeting life and all will come to an end with the passage of life.
The aim behind presenting the transitory nature of earthly things and fleeting nature of life is to contrast it with the heavenly kingdom. Heavenly Kingdom promises permanence and stability of life hereafter. The poem ends with the note from the Wanderer that there is "comfort from the Father in heaven, where all stability resides" (70). The comfort lies only in the spiritual well-being of man and his attachment with the Lord (Father). It is only in heavenly kingdom he will be able to find stability and permanence beyond doubts. The Wanderer makes it clear that the heart of Anglo –Saxon life will also fades away just like this transient world and its experiences. Comfort, security and happiness are not the things to be found in this temporary world. They shall only be able to get it in the heavenly kingdom of Lord, “It is better for the one that seeks mercy, consolation from the father in the heavens, where, for us, all permanence rests (112a).”


References
The Wanderer. ( 1993). The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. 6th _ed. New York: Norton, 68-70.


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