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Quotes

Quote #4

[…] A man gains no wisdom before he is dealt
his winters in the world.
(65-66)

The man who is dealt "winters in the world" is probably an elderly man, since he has lived through many more seasons than younger people. Yet he may also be the exile, since as we've just seen, the exile experiences much more winter than most. In any case, these lines express the belief that life experiences, and not book-learning, are what truly make a person wise.

Quote #5

[…] The wise man is patient,
not too hot-hearted, nor too quick-tongued,
nor a warrior too weak, nor too foolhardy,
neither frightened nor fain, nor too wealth-greedy,
nor ever of boasts too eager, before he knows enough.
(66b-70)

Now, the speaker launches into things the wise man knows with more gnomic, or proverbial, statements similar to the one we saw in lines 12-14. These lines contain a similar idea: that a person should think before speaking. He should not be too "quick-tongued," or quick too speak, and should not make a boast until he "knows enough," that is, knows whether or not he can fulfill it. The other proper traits for a wise man or warrior – patience, courage, not being greedy – are what we might expect. But the counsel to think before acting or speaking is a particularly Anglo-Saxon warrior value.

Quote #6

A wise man perceives how ghastly it will be
when all this world's weal desolate stands.
(74-75)

The culmination of the wise man's knowledge is an awareness of how awful the end of the world will be, "when all this world's weal," or bounty, stands desolate – deprived of its owners. This idea foreshadows the scene of the decaying wall and the abandoned "works' of giants." The most horrible thing the wise man can imagine seems to be the disappearance of humanity from the earth, when all human wealth and creations are left behind.

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