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The Wanderer

The Wanderer


by Anonymous

Lines 30-39 Summary

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

Lines 30-32

He knows who tries it how cruel is sorrow,
a bitter companion, to the one who has few
concealers of secrets, beloved friends.

  • Again, the earth-stepper returns to the theme of his loneliness. Instead of real friends, the exile has sorrow as a companion.
  • This passage marks an end to the earth-stepper's reflections on his own experience. Now, he begins to think about the fate of all exiles more generally.
  • The earth-stepper subtly announces an idea he will return to later on with "he knows who tries it." The idea is that those who have experienced exile possess special knowledge that others do not.
  • The translator expands the Old English, leofra geholena, "beloved friends" or protectors, to characterize these friends as "concealers of secrets." He does this because the word after leofra is unclear in the manuscript. The characterization of friends as "concealers of secrets" fits well with the idea in lines 9b-14, that the earth-stepper's lack of friends leaves him with no one he trusts to talk to.

Lines 33-37a

The exile-track claims him, not twisted gold,
his soul-chamber frozen, not fold's renown.
He remembers hall-warriors and treasure-taking,
how among youth his gold-friend
received him at the feast.

  • This passage contrasts the joys of the exile's past with his current desolation. Instead of possessing gold, he is possessed by exile. Instead of earth's (fold's) fame (renown), he gets a frozen "soul-chamber."
  • With the idea of the frozen soul-chamber, the imagery of winter returns. This time, it has penetrated the ferðlocan (soul-chamber or spirit-chest), deep inside the exile's body.
  • The earth-stepper began his speech while remembering the slaughter of his kinsmen. Here, the idea of memory returns, but this time the memories are joyful. The exile remembers what life was like back when he had a hall to hang out in.
  • The "gold-friend" who receives the exile at the feast is his lord. He is a gold-friend because of his role as dispenser of treasure to his noblemen.
  • The exile's memories of more joyful times foreshadow a section in lines 40-44 in which he dreams that he is back in the hall, kneeling before his lord.

Lines 37b-39

Joy has all perished!
So he knows, who must of his lord-friend,
of loved-one, lore-sayings long time before.

  • As he will again in lines 94-96, the exile laments the passing of all good things with the exclamation "Joy has all perished!" His memories of happier times disappear with his return to the reality of his situation.
  • The twisted grammar of lines 38-39 makes them kind of difficult to understand. Basically, they're saying that a person who has been deprived of a lord for a long time knows that the good times are over.
  • With "so he knows, who…." the speaker returns to the idea of the special knowledge born from experience, a special knowledge that all exiles share.
  • In previous lines, the lord was mainly characterized by his treasure-giving capability. Now, he has a new function: he's a dispenser of "lore-sayings," or wisdom. In addition to treasure, the exile is deprived of his lord's wisdom.

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