Study Guide

The Seafarer Summary

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The Seafarer Summary

The speaker of "The Seafarer" announces that he can make a true song about himself and the suffering he has endured while traveling over the ocean in the middle of winter. He remembers terrible cold and loneliness, and hearing the sounds of seabirds instead of the mead hall. This life of hardship is one about which the comfortable "city dwellers" know nothing. They'll never understand his suffering, poor guy. The weather worsens as snow and hail fall. His spirit is troubled, urging him to endure the harsh conditions on the winter sea so that he can seek a faraway "foreign" homeland.

Ah, the arrival of spring should help, right? Wrong. It only provokes more wanderlust in the speaker. The cry of the cuckoo, a sign of warmer weather, makes our speaker feel downright down in the dumps. It tells him it's time for yet another journey. The Seafarer's spirit leaps out of his chest and soars all over the world, then returns to him unsatisfied.

He knows the world's riches will not last, since everyone dies and you can't take your possessions with you. Because it's only through the praise of the living after one's death that a person can hope to live forever, people should fight hard against the devil so their bravery will be remembered after their death. That way, they can live forever with the angels. Sweet deal.

The days of earthly glory are over, the speaker tells us, because the wealthy and powerful civilizations have fallen. The party's over, and the weak have inherited the earth. Glory and nobility have faded just like an aging person, whose body and senses fail. No matter how much we try to comfort the dead and ourselves with gold, it won't work because a sinful soul can't take his gold with him after death. He's painting quite the pretty picture, this seafarer guy.

So what's the takeaway point here? Our speaker tells us that it's important to fear God, who created the whole world, and before whom it stands still. Only a fool does not fear God: he will meet his death unprepared. In order to avoid this, a man has to live humbly, control his passions, keep his word, and be fair to both friends and enemies. A man should think about his earthly life, focus on the heavenly home that awaits him, and how to get there. In fact, our speaker suggests, we should all work hard to get to the eternal life, where joy awaits us, thank God, indeed.

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