Study Guide

The Seafarer Spirituality

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"The Seafarer" presents two somewhat contradictory conceptions of God. On the one hand, God is similar to the Anglo-Saxon idea of fate – a vaguely ominous force that determines the outcome of events in a person's life, and before whom all human beings are basically helpless. On the other hand, God is the creator of the "firm foundations" on which the world stands, and the solution to our seafarer's restlessness. God is the only truly lasting thing available to mankind, trumping gold, glory, and other earthly pleasures. So, our speaker suggests, we should stop worrying about what God-fate has in store for us, and instead to focus on getting to our true home in heaven. This conclusion poses an interesting interpretation of the poem. Could it be that all of the seafaring in the poem may be an extended metaphor for the spiritual journey of the Christian soul? Changes things up a bit, huh?

Questions About Spirituality

  1. What is the relationship between God and fate in "The Seafarer"?
  2. What distinguishes the poem's God from all of the earthly pleasures the speaker rejects?
  3. What does the speaker say we should focus our thoughts on at the end of "The Seafarer"? Has he done so in the course of the poem?
  4. Do you think this poem is one giant metaphor for the journey of a Christian soul? Or do you think our seafarer is really just a sailor? Could both interpretations be true at once?

Chew on This

No doubt about it: all of the travel in "The Seafarer" is really an extended metaphor of the spiritual journey of the Christian soul.

"The Seafarer" presents God as the ultimate source of stability and stillness, the antidote (cure) to the restlessness of the speaker's soul.

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