Texts: The Seafarer


Ezra Pound, trans. The Seafarer
Trans. of Seafarer, seems fine
Trans Johnathan Glenn, Seafarer
Trans. Sîan Echard, Seafarer

Patrick W. Conner. Tenth-Century Exeter: A Cultural History.



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The Seafarer is a poem found in The Exeter Book. It is anonymous. The Exeter Book is one of four codices of Old English poetry. It was inscribed in the 980's, and formally given to the cathedral library of Exeter in south-western England by Bishop Leofric (d. 1072) in the late eleventh century. The first two lines of the poem read, "Mæg ic be me sylfum soðgied wrecan, | siþas secgan, hu ic geswincdagum ...."

The standard edition is found in Krapp & Dobbie, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records (Columbia University Press, 1936), volume 3.

The Seafarer is one of several poems in the Old English corpus that reminds readers of Latin elegies. It is often grouped with The Wanderer. It is a monologue, although some critics have thought it a dialogue. Because it ends in traditional liturgical language, some have thought it a kind of prayer or sermon or holy lament.

One of the central themes of the poem is that everything of this world is merely on loan to us. Consequently, we can have no firm foundations, no absolute faith in things of this world.