Literary Devices Used in The Seafarer

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

The seafarer uses many literary devices, such as alliteration, personification, and anaphora to effectively contrast and highlight the differences between the man’s views. It is a poem of constant movement. This is shown in the alliteration of “When wonderful things were worked among them”(84). The W’s add to the flowing feeling, and even visually can be associated with the waves and turning seas that he travels. His thoughts themselves travel from the particular to the general, from the known to the unknown, and from the temporal to the eternal. It is a cohesive thought in and of itself. One can assume that the seafarer himself used to be a land-dweller, that at one point he too was ‘deprived of, then willingly [relinquish] the land-joys, especially the companionship of lord and fellows.’ This is what gives him credibility as a storyteller, he says that he has cast off all earthly pleasures and now does not trust them. He prefers spiritual to material wealth, and looks down upon land-dwellers as ignorant and naive.

It is due to these new views of the man that causes this poem to be a lament and an elegy. The seafarer knows that his return to sea is imminent, almost in parallel to that of his death. This causes him to be hesitant and fearful, not only of the sea, but the powers that reside over him and all he knows. He is a man with the fear of God in him. And as he goes forward into the new journey of unknown ends and entirely known beginnings he tries to comfort himself by down-trodding not only his own self as a land-dweller, but the people of the land in general and how foreign they have become to him. The poem itself resurrects the fear and anger which the seafarer suffered in the past intensified by the thought of a new and more permanent exile from earthly happiness and normality. This shift in tone from anger to fear is what adds the complexity to the character.

This new fear of permanent exile can be shown even better in the allegory of The Bible and that of Adam. Like Adam the man is cast out of Eden, a perfect place on Earth granted by God. This perfect place to the man is the land of old, where old kings ruled. Now he has permanently exiled himself due to his differences from the new man. He truly does follow the will of God, that in his life he is only looking for spiritual wealth and atonement for any sin and greed he had on land. Like the ancient christians searching for the City of God, the seafarer looks for heaven and peace on the sea, alone and in exile.

When looking at the modern man, it is easy to interpret the poem as a wake up call, that the powers around us need to be feared, respected, and given into in order to commit to faith. That in our life we need to honorably move forward, even if that means leaving behind our past in order to better understand our future.


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