The Wanderer


The Wanderer by Geoffrey Chaucer has often been regarded as a heathen poem in which several of the Anglo-Saxon heroic ideals are represented. However, it can also be seen as representing Christian ideals that are contradictory to the original Anglo-Saxon beliefs.


If the poem is seen in a Christian light, the speaker could be seen as contrasting the true security of faith in God with the insecurity of earthly ties. These earthly ties are possibly the original Anglo-Saxon heroic ideals.


The Wanderer illustrates the sad, lonely and cold life of the lordless Anglo-Saxon warrior. Being lordless to the Anglo-Saxon warrior is considered a fate worse than death. To be without a lord is to be without a family, place in society and to be without purpose. The Wanderer embodies this dreadful fate:


“Was wont to entertain him at the feast.


Now all that joy has gone. He understands


Who long must do without the kind advice


Of his beloved lord, while sleep and sorrow


Together often bind him, sad and lonely,


How in his mind it seems that he embraces

And kisses his liege lord…”
This extract can be seen in a non-Christian light as the speaker desperately longs to entertain and worship his now dead lord. These feelings of longing are so deeply felt that he dreams of being with his lord. If the poem was one of with Christian ideals not as much emphasis would be placed on this, rather the “anhaga” would be thankful for his spared life. (Godden, M. Lapridge, M, 19- P107) The reader is so overwhwlmed by the speakers material need – hunger, shelter and his lord’s praise – but also by his desperate loneliness and his need to confide in someone.
The bleak and barren landscape, icy-cold seas and winter darkness metaphorically portrays the Anglo-Saxon warriors need to be with his lord and furd. There seems to be no other spiritual level on which the wanderer basis’ his beliefs and finds sanctuary. (Swanton, M, 1987 pg 107 –109)


“In darkness of the earth, and sadly thence


Journeyed by winter over icy waves…”


There seems to be no meaning beyond the furd. There is no individual esteem. Without the band or group life is meaningless. However, with closer inspection the poem takes on a new, more christian perspective.


The poem later takes a more Christian approach to the wnaderer fate as the Wanderer seemingly rationalise his loss and new found circunstances. He inspects and considers his fate and comes to the conclusion that his fate is ultiamtely determined by the ‘creator’ . he feels that he wil not find a soultion to his destiny within this material world and within the furd he longs for. However, even within his final expulsion of the material his communiqué filled with images of the hall in which the furd lived, his lord and treasures.


(Godden, M, Lapridge, M, 19- p107)


“Where is the horse now, where the hero gone?


Where is the bounteous lord, and where the benches


for feasting? Where are all the joys of hall?…”