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The Wanderer

The Wanderer


by Anonymous

Binding, Fastening, Containing

Symbol Analysis

The speaker uses images of binding and fastening to express the emotional containment he thinks is necessary for a wise man. He also describes sleep, sorrow, and the waves as binding him, as though these are the bars of a prison that constrain him. Images of containment also appear with the burial of bodies.

  • Line 13: The speaker uses the metaphor of binding the spirit to express the idea of keeping one's thoughts to oneself. This metaphor figures the spirit – a metonymy for thoughts – as a separate entity from the speaker and one that seeks to evade containment.
  • Line 14: The speaker expresses the same idea with the metaphor of guarding the "wealth-chamber." This metaphor portrays thoughts as precious commodities that the owner must protect by hiding.
  • Lines 17-18: The speaker tells "glory-seekers" to bind a dreary mind in their "breast-chamber." Again, the mind is a separate entity from the person that seems to want to evade containment.
  • Line 21: The speaker uses the metaphor of fastening his heart "with fetters" to express once again the idea of containing his emotions. This metaphor personifies the heart, since fetters are a way to constrain human prisoners.
  • Line 25: The speaker says he looks for a lord over the "wave's binding," a figure that makes the ocean itself into a constraining force, perhaps one that the speaker tries to escape. In this way, the speaker becomes like the thoughts he binds within himself.
  • Line 41: Sorrow and sleep bind the "lone-dweller," joining the sea as yet more constraining forces upon him.
  • Line 58: The speaker uses the metaphor of sending thoughts over the "wave's binding" to describe memory. Once again, thoughts attempt to escape containment, this time successfully. And, once again, the speaker hints that it'd be better if they didn't, since they only make him feel sad again.
  • Lines 84-85: The "drear-faced" man hides his dead friend in an "earth-cave." This containment protects the body from the beasts that might try to feed upon it. As it was for thoughts, containment is a good thing for a body. The container for thoughts – the body – now has its own container – the earth.
  • Line 103: A snowstorm binds the ground. The binding that began with thoughts in the body has moved from the containment of that body in the earth to, now, the binding of the earth itself.

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