Texts: The Wanderer


Daniel Moysaenko, trans, The Wanderer.

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

The Wanderer 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 Archbishop Lanfranc in the late eleveth century. The image at left reproduces the first page of the poem. The first two lines read, "Oft him anhaga are gebideð | metudes miltse, þeah þe he modcearig ...."

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

The Wanderer is one of several poems in the Old English corpus that reminds readers of Latin elegies. It is often grouped with The Seafarer. It is a monologue framed by a narrator.

One of the central themes of the poem is that "Wyrd bið ful ærad" ("Fate is inexorable"). A famous passage ( lines 92-96) relates an ubi sunt motif--meaning "Where have they gone"?