Exeter Book

The Seafarer: Translation and Context College

Beginning at the time of early settlements in the 5th century and spanning until 1150 A.D., the English language and that spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons during this time is referred to as Old English or simply, Anglo-Saxon. The influence of Christianity on Anglo-Saxon writing was established early on, as the first complete composition was a code of laws written by the first English Christian king (Simpson 6). Naturally, with literacy of this time being mainly restricted to servants of the church, the popularity of religion in Old English works continued (Simpson 7). Along with elegiac tendencies, a blend between Christian and heroic ideals, exile or separation from one’s “lord and kinship,” the powerful return of spring, and especially the quest towards enlightenment and reaching one’s true home of heaven are traditional themes present in Old English poetry.

Although Anglo-Saxon speech is also referred to as Old English, it is very much unlike the English language spoken today. Without translations, Old English, which more closely relates to Icelandic or German especially in terms of grammar, is difficult to decipher; Old English authors would often make up words as well. Translated poems under the same title, maintain...

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