Role of the mead-hall in The Wanderer (poem)

Topics: Meaning of life, Wanderer, Lord Pages: 4 (1232 words) Published: December 18, 2008
In reading The Wanderer, one is also immediately struck by the poignancy and lingering anguish underlying the text as it adopts a somewhat elegiac dolefulness in addressing some of the most common themes in Old English poetry - the flow of time and the transience of earthly beings, the agonizing grief of exile in a place of tragic impermanence, and the harshness of longing and disconnection. But amongst the many metaphorical representations, the imagery of the mead-hall seems most imperative to the motivation of the poem and its contemplation of earthly instability.

First, to examine the mead-hall in its literal meaning, "mead" is most likely associated to the alcoholic drink made from fermenting honey and water and thus symbolizes a celebration by feasting. As such, the mead-hall stands for a place of rewards and honor. To the protagonist of the poem, it was where he had spent the most glorious days of his life and, more importantly, it is the core of his identity as a "hall-warrior". It is the only life that he knows, it is where his kinship lies, and it is where his Lord resides.

The presence of a mead-hall denotes the condition in which a warrior is at one with his Lord and his place in the world is secure; in the Anglo-Saxon context, it probably refers to the Lord's grace and divine protection. By losing his Lord, the warrior becomes victim to the state of affairs in which the social ties that define a man's identity have been severed. That is, the exiled is without a protector and lacks legal standing. He becomes an outlaw.

Through the succession of the poetry, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a clear line between the physical hall and the deeper metaphorical meanings it represents. Fundamentally, the concept of the mead-hall draws an esoteric line documenting the three sequential stages of the wanderer's life - his past, present and future.

In his past as an apparently thriving warrior, the mead-hall acts as a means of recording his...


Bibliography: he Wanderer Project. 2001. Rick McDonald (Utah Valley University).
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