Exeter Book

The Seafarer

Choose either the theme of exile or the theme of long journeys and illustrate how the theme appears in the poem.

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Exile was one of the most tragic fates that Anglo-Saxon man or woman could imagine. As the relationship between a Lord and his retainer was of utmost significance, voluntary or forced exile was akin to a modern prison sentence. The narrator in "The Seafarer" is an exile, although his isolation is voluntary. He recognizes the contrast between a life on land and his struggles at sea, noting the absence of friends and women. However, he also understands that God challenges all men, and that he must accept his fate. The Seafarer's view of exile is perhaps the most positive and worldly.