Exeter Book

Duality in “Wyrd”: Tracing Paradox in The Wanderer College

In Bernard F. Huppe’s critical exposition, “The “Wanderer”: Theme and Structure”, he speaks collectively for scholarship associated with the elegiac poem, The Wanderer, stating that “the purpose of the poem is entirely Christian, its general theme being the contrast between the transitoriness of earthly goods and the security of God’s mercy”(Huppe, 516) Though this is a plausible thematic evaluation of the Old English verse, a rigorous analysis of the relationship between form and content may reveal various additional layers of meaning. Interpretations range and are often disputed due to the utilization of stoic diction and the appearance of multiple speakers throughout. The Wanderer is innately concerned with the credibility of “fate” and the concept of “free will”, out of which a dichotomy is apparent; that of divine intervention and fundamental human agency. These concepts can be observed in “wyrd”, a term that occurs frequently and differs within the context of location in the poem. “Wyrd” is essentially a paradox: the pagan connotation of “wyrd” shifts and expands, as earthly life is seen as “inexorable fate”, from the timeless perspective of God, while from the point of view of the sage who has embraced the transient...

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