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The Husband's Message

The Husband's Message

by Anonymous

Lines 30-44a Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 30-35a

Nor can he in all the world desire . . .
more in his mind, as he told me,
than that the all-ruling God might grant that you two
. . . together may afterwards
[give] to men and to retainers
studded circlets.

  • Some of this part of the manuscript has been damaged, but the messenger seems to be expressing his lord's wish to have his lady join him in handing out booty to his war buddies.
  • "Studded circlets" are probably gem-studded bands of metal, which people would wear on their heads. They're the sorts of things elf ladies are always wearing in fantasy movies. Exhibit A: Arwen. Exhibit B: Galadriel. See what we mean?
  • The messenger reinforces the truth of his words by characterizing them as exact reporting. He's repeating just what "he [the lord] told me."
  • With the mention of the desire "in his mind," the poem returns to its focus on the interiority (the inner life) of its characters.
  • Just as the lady was "permitted" to have a home in line 17, the lord imagines the pair's future togetherness as dependent on someone else – in this case, God, who will hopefully "grant" that the two reunite.
  • It's not just togetherness that the lord is hoping for. He also wants to hand out jewelry with his ladylove. In other words, he wants them to rule a war-band together. (Dispensing gold was a display of a warlord's power.)
  • Referring to his lover's participation in the gold-giving ritual signals to her that he wants to make her his lady, not just his girlfriend. He's offering her a highly visible and public role in his realm.
  • The lord's reference to gold-giving may also be a strategic move calculated to assure the lady that he's wealthy. If she comes to him, in other words, she'll gain security (not to mention lots of bling).

Lines 35b-44a

He has enough
decorated gold . . .
. . . [though] he must hold his land from a foreign country,
a pleasant land . . .
. . . of heroes, even though my lord was
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
forced here by necessity, urged his ship out,
and upon the waves . . . . . . had to
journey upon the path of the sea, eager for the journey away,
and to stir up the sea-currents.

  • This passage continues the strategy of the previous lines to reassure the lady of her lord's prosperity by mentioning his wealth. At the same time, though, it acknowledges that the guy has fallen upon some hard times.
  • The first part of the passage smoothes over the misfortunes the lord has suffered by looking on the bright side. Sure, he has to rule his realm in exile; but hey, he has a lot of gold. And the exile isn't that bad, since it takes place in a "pleasant land."
  • The second part of the passage gets into the nitty-gritty of the lord's initial departure. Just like the journey he now asks his lady to make, his voyage was by ocean.
  • At the time of his journey, the lord was "eager" for it, probably because he was being pursued by a horde of angry warriors.
  • The description of the lord's actions as he undertook his journey emphasizes his virility and strength. He singlehandedly "urged" his ship out onto the waves and eagerly stirred up not just the water but the "sea-currents" – a fast-moving, formidable obstacle.
  • As it was in the description of the lady's future voyage, the sea-journey is called "stirring up" the water, and the ocean is a "path." This repeated language connects the lord's sea-journey to the lady's prospective one, uniting them in a shared experience of ocean-going.
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