Thesis statement: The common theme that appears in the Anglo-Saxon poetry pieces, Beowulf and “The Seafarer” is that they both embed a definitively Christian values despite the presence of pagan images (Mursell 36).
Beowulf is perceived to be written by a Christian cleric, who draws pagan images and themes to signify its Christian character. In the story of Beowulf, he had to leave behind the warmth of his hall in order to pursue his journey over the sea to conquer Grendal, the evil monster in their combat. In Beowulf, although the author was able to form pagan images in the poem, it also presented the values of Christianity such as honor, forgiveness and loving one’s enemies. The poem was able to highlight the value of honor, which a person earns in his lifetime through good deeds. Christians believe that there is life after death and that glory will be achieved afterlife. Forgiveness was illustrated when Hildeburh married the Frisian King despite the fact that in the war that transpired between the Danes and the Frisians, where both their own son and brother perished in the war. The Christian teaches the virtue of forgiveness, or learning to forgive enemies, despite all the wrong doings. Peace and forgiveness are the two values that the author gave significant importance. Although the main character is a Christian, he neither contradicts the ultimate pagan values found in the poem. The line in the poem embodies the Christian maxim which states that “pride goeth before a fall”, which reminded Beowulf to remain humble and not to “give way to pride”. At the same time, the Christian teaching of “eternal rewards” reminds Beowulf not to give in to worldly desires since the fame of being recognized as a gallant warrior is irreplaceable (SparkNotes Editor).
On the other hand, the poem “The Searfarer”, the traveller’s inner restlessness and longing for the warmth of home he left behind was later surpassed by a greater longing for the goal of his journey (Mursell 36). The Christian spirituality will tell the audience to transform the pagan longing for hall and heroic endeavour into the Christian yearning for heaven. This was evident in this poem when it spoke about the rewards of the Lord that were regarded as the rings or other things of value that are given by Anglo-Saxon kings to assure the bond of loyalty and protection that is given to the subjects. The line from the poem “The Seafarer” shows that life is meaningless without the presence of the lord and his friends. As the speaker went out sailing in solitude, he remembers the Lord and the other kinsmen, who he regards as his friends. His isolation left him wandering that was shown in the line “Wretched and anxious, in the paths of exile/lacking dear friends, hung round by icicles” (II. 14-15) (SparkeNotes Editors).
In conclusion, both Beowulf and “The Seafarer” spoke of Anglo-Saxon Christian spirituality which expressed both yearning for heaven and fear of hell that became instrumental to determine the Christian identity (Mursell 36). Despite the strong Christian context in both works, it is still illustrates a lost pagan culture. The vivid images of beasts and heroic combat are determinative that the Anglo-Saxon spirituality adopted the fierce wildness of lost pagan culture (Mursell 36). The yearning for home after a long travel means that earthly life is nothing compared to the eternal life with God, where man can find his genuine happiness. Therefore, it can be concluded that Christian values are clearly evident in both poems.
Mursell, Gordon. English Spirituality: From Earliest Times to 1700. UK: Westminster
John Knox Press, 2001. Print.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Beowulf.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2003.
Web. 19 Sept. 2013.