The Dualistic Perspective of the Seafarer
It seems essential to have two parts to everything. Whether it may be a reward and a punishment, or a heart of both hatred and love. Dualism is not simply the act of having two parts; it’s the act that the second part is essential to the first. Perhaps the second part provides motivation of what not to do, or it is our human nature to desire more than one thing. This ultimately creates a larger challenge for ourselves than originally intended. “The Seafarer” was written during Britain’s Anglo-Saxon period and was used mainly as entertainment in that time. Of course back in those days entertainment had an entirely different meaning. Anglo-Saxons were known for having a strong connection with God, which is clearly represented through the spirituality in the poem. Through the use of dualism the author highlights the controlling metaphor, stresses the imagery, shapes the poetic structure, and emphasizes the theme in “The Seafarer”.
The poem accentuates two sides, the land and the sea. Throughout the poem the sea is given a negative connotation where land is represented as a safe and calm place. When the poet writes about land, “orchards blossom, and the towns bloom, / Fields grow lovely as the world springs fresh,” (48-49) he makes it seem more peaceful and serene. Yet, when he writes about the sea. “iced cold sea, whirled in sorrow, “ (15) it gives off the opposite effect. Even though the sea may be rough and dangerous the Seafarer still desires to venture out into the open waves. The good versus bad side dualism is commonly seen in literature. However in this poem contains a deeper meaning. In the controlling metaphor the sea represents the challenges faced by a Christians and obstacles in ordinary life and their spiritual journey. For example, “ with frozen chains, and hardship groaned / around my heart.”(10-11) symbolizes the hardship of the sea. The sea is a vortex of guilt, sins, and loneliness. As humans we are drawn by curiosity. This is what keeps the seafarer coming back to the water, even though he knows the pain and suffering it causes him. This is shown here when the poet writes, “ And yet my heart wanders away, / my soul roams with the sea”(58-59). Despite all of that, he continues to go out onto the waves, showing that you must be persistent in overcoming your challenges in order to achieve greatness. Greatness being the idea that you will one day go to heaven, which is considered to be our true home. By using the dualism of land and sea, the controlling metaphor is proved that we do not belong on land or sea, but rather with God.
The dualism also accentuates the vivid imagery. Imagery is meant to enhance the poem, and when you compare two things it intensifies the power ordinary imagery. The poem’s imagery then appears to also be fighting back and forth for both sides of the dualism, rather than just describing words. When the poet uses imagery to describe the sea it gives off such an eerie effect. “The death-noise of birds instead of laughter,” (21) is one line in particular that shows the spookiness of poem. The poet then uses a metaphor, “hail would fall, / the coldest of seeds.” (32-33) to add on to the imagery. Imagery of weather seems to be a constant theme in this poem. The poem begins by talking about smashing winds and ice-cold temperatures. The poet also uses nature in the poem’s imagery. Discussing natural wild life and plants throughout the stanzas. Both land and sea imagery tie into the idea of dualism and create more power behind each subject.
The poetic structure of this poem is very much affected by the idea of dualism. The poem begins by talking about the sea, but then turns into comparing the land to the sea. Towards the end of the poem, it focuses in on the main theme of spirituality. This poem was written during a time when Christianity was very important and the idea of heaven was our true home and where people belonged. The theme of spirituality can also be questioned by the possibility that all the traveling is someone’s religious journey in finding God. The poem also presents God as the main foundation for stability among human’s lives. “The Seafarer” also ends with an “Amen”, supporting the idea that this poem is purely about a journey of a Christian soul, rather than the journey of a literal person.
Overall dualism is able to greatly affect the controlling metaphor, imagery, poetic structure, and theme in the poem “The Seafarer”. Making it seem as though the whole idea of the poem is really just a Christian doing some soul-searching. The sea is the challenges they face, and the land being a small haven from the stress and difficulty. The dualism allows the poem to send a greater and stronger message then it originally could, making the reader question the true meaning and where they belong.
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