This poem is found in the tenth-century Exeter anthology of Old English verse, along with others of superficially similar type now generally known as “elegies” (Klinck 1992, 11–12, 223–35). Its central persona is a man who talks of his experience of sailing in terms of unremitting hardship, but who nevertheless feels impelled to sail into the unknown; from that perspective, he muses on death and the failure of human power, both personal and institutional, before urging people to find their home and security in God. Some of the themes of loss, exile, death and decay which characterise the Old English lyric-elegies of the Exeter Book are certainly present in The Seafarer, but the overall effect of the poem is of vigour and enthusiasm, both physical and spiritual.
In early criticism
Citation: Cavill, Paul. "The Seafarer". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 July 2012 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=7668, accessed 09 December 2023.]