Exeter Book

Boethian Concepts in "The Wanderer"

Boethius’s <i>The Consolation of Philosophy</i> and the Old English poem “The Wanderer” are both testament to the enduring quality of literature. Writing in the sixth century A.D., Boethius discusses such varied topics as happiness, the existence of evil, and the path to God while locked in a cell with the goddess Philosophy. In contrast, “The Wanderer,” an elegy originally written in Old English, is a poem told from the point of view of an exile mourning his despondent existence away from the community. Though it was written almost five centuries later, it reflects many of the philosophical tenets outlined in Boethius’s account. It expresses life as a merely transient existence, arguing that happiness can only be found in God and that fate is an integral part of the human experience.

Both texts agree on the transient nature of human existence. For example, to the narrator in “The Wanderer,” wealth is but a temporary means of happiness that is ultimately transitory and will eventually be destroyed along with the rest of the world. This sentiment is evoked when he writes that “wealth is fleeting” (108), and in another line predicts that “all the wealth of this world stands waste” (74) until the universe will “stand...

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