Fate in Anglo-Saxon Poetry
The word “wyrd” is an Old English noun- meaning fate or destiny. Wyrd remains known as a quintessential aspect of the Anglo-Saxon culture. Through their literature, man versus his own destiny becomes a reoccurring theme. Characters in their poetry seem to be in constant battle with God’s will. They believe man can be doomed to die or granted prosperity in life. The Anglo-Saxon poems, “The Seafarer,” “The Wanderer,” and “The Wife’s Lament” exemplify this creed of the limit of one’s free will. The speakers question how wryd affects their lives. The speakers in all three poems use the human condition to comment on the role wryd plays in life. By doing so, the speakers show that fate and destiny remains stronger than free will.
In “The Seafarer,” the speaker claims, “Fate is stronger / And God mightier than any man’s mind” (“The Seafarer” 115-116). This alone gives the reader an insight on the Anglo-Saxon view of fate. The Seafarer urges those men fortunate enough to be on warm land to act brave and courageous so that their soul can be saved after death. The rough seas have shown the Seafarer God’s working, and he realizes that his struggle and pain on his voyage will be returned with great fortune after death. The speaker claims that once man can realize Fate’s three guarantees of illness, age, or death, man can learn to accept his life (“The Seafarer” 68-71). According to the Seafarer, accepting God’s will is how one becomes content with life and destiny.
In “The Wander,” the speaker looks at wyrd in a different light compared to the way the Seafarer viewed fate. To the Wanderer, fate is cruel and unfair once he remembers the men, “robbed of their riches, suddenly / Looted by death- the doom of earth, / Sent to us all by every rising / Sun” (“The Wanderer” 58-62). The speaker feels abandonment from God as he literally and figuratively wanders through life. He believes that fate has been unfair to the men who have been good...