Seafarer Song Analysis

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The “wild swan’s song / sometimes served as music” from line 19 of “The Seafarer” is a metaphor for the scop, or storyteller, in Anglo-Saxon communities. This line indicates the importance of community because it shows the speaker trying to recreate the social aspects of community in his sea-bound exile. The use of the swan as a scop undermines the speaker’s community in exile in nature and leads the speaker to conclude that the only community left for him is in heaven. The “swan’s song” is echoed throughout the elegy, particularly in the first line, “I can sing a true song of myself” (“The Seafarer” l. 1). This “song” tells of the titular seafarer’s exile, his revelation that community is the most important part of life on earth, and his subsequent death that ends the elegy. In order to understand how the swan’s song impacts the elegy, it is important to understand how the Anglo-Saxons viewed swans. This Anglo-Saxon riddle, translated into English prose by Dieter Bitterli, is about swans and describes them in terms of how Anglo-Saxon people viewed them:
My clothing is silent when I tread the ground or inhabit the dwellings or stir the waters. Sometimes my trappings and this high air lift me up over the abodes of the heroes, [5] and the strength of the clouds then bear me far over the people. My adornments sound
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He does this by displacing aspects of a typical Anglo-Saxon community and forcing them onto his natural surroundings: “alluding to the joys of the hall, the speaker juxtaposes what he ironically refers to as ‘entertainment’ of the kind of desolate seascape he has experienced with attractive social images of laughter and drink” (Magennis 305). The speaker depicts the Anglo-Saxon community as highly social. The speaker is dependent on this social aspect of life and it is this dependency that leads to the speaker giving the swan the role of

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