Return to my translation of The Wanderer.

Notes on The Wanderer

Compiled by Jonathan A. Glenn


A meditative poem, The Wanderer has a bleak outlook, but may still hold out hope for the exile; at least the exile continues to hope (or wish): Oft him anhaga are gebideð ‘often the lone-dweller waits for favor for himself’ (1). A. Lee (The Guest-Hall of Eden 136 ff.) does not see the speaker as gaining God’s mercy in the end: “he is on the whole a static figure of confinement and introspection, a man almost frozen in body and soul who sits deep in thought.” The matter cannot be proven either way, yet I think the poem is less about the man’s salvation than about the world as it is for all mankind: læne ‘transitory.’ The poem’s one speaker certainly ends in the "right" attitude, looking to God þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð ‘where for us all stability stands’ (117). Perhaps the speaker is not literally an exile at all.


  1. Introduction of the Anhaga (1-5)
  2. Body: Meditation of/by/about (?) Exile
    1. The Situation: Memory/Composition of Place (1) (6-39)

      Time: Early Morning, Winter
      Place: Seascape
      Person: Anhaga ‘lone-dweller,’ Eardstapa ‘earth-stepper’
      Matter: Wyn eal gedreas! ‘joy has all perished’ (Loss of Lord and Household)

    2. Dream and Waking: Memory/Composition of Place (2) (40-58)
      1. Dream about Mondryhten ‘man-lord’
      2. Waking to Brimfuglas ‘sea-fowls’
      3. Phantom Friends like Seabirds: Swimmað eft on weg ‘again they swim away’
    3. “Philosophical” Outlook: Understanding (59-88)
      1. Wise Moderation in the Face of Sudden Change
      2. Moderation in Beot ‘vows’
      3. Rice to Ruin: eald enta geweorc idlu stodon ‘old giants’ work stood idle/worthless’
    4. Colloquy upon Ruin and Exile: Will (89-112)
      1. “Hwær cwom … ?”

        Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago? Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?
        Hwær cwom symbla gesetu? Hwær sindon seledreamas?
             Eala beorht bune! Eala byrnwiga!
             Eala þeodnes þrym! Hu seo þrag gewat,
             genap under nihthelm, swa heo no wære! (93-97)

        [Where is the horse? Where the young warrior? Where now the gift-giver?
        Where are the feast-seats? Where all the hall-joys?
             Alas for the bright cup! Alas byrnied warrior!
             Alas the lord’s glory! How this time hastens,
             grows dark under night-helm, as if it were not!]

      2. Her bið … læne ‘here is … transitory’ (109-11)
  3. Conclusion: Wisdom, Taciturnity, Prayer (113-17)