When people lose important things in their lives, they generally mourn. An elegy is defined by a poem which mourns the death of a person or laments something lost. Anglo-Saxon poems are often elegies, which were written around the late 10th Century. The Seafarer is a poem that has a man who is traveling across the sea, but is faced with harsh winter weather. The Wife’s Lament has a woman who has lost her husband and is then tortured by isolation. The Wanderer is about a lone man who is traveling over an ice-cold sea, hoping for God’s mercy despite being condemned to loneliness. The elements of an elegy are found in The Seafarer, The Wife’s Lament, and The Wanderer. The Seafarer is an old Anglo-Saxon poem in which a man is traveling across the sea while he is being troubled with harsh weather conditions. In this poem, the lone sailor laments his old life. This is shown through the weather; the more he becomes isolated and alone, the worse the weather treats him. He misses “the death-noise of birds instead of laughter,/ the mewing of gulls instead of mead,/ storms beat on the rocky cliffs and were echoed/ by icy-feathered terns and the eagle’s screams;/ no kinsmen could offer comfort there,/ to a soul left drowning in desolation” (21-26.62-63). This shows that he wishes he could go back to the noises of the mead halls from wear hails.
It also shows that the weather worsens with his growing longings. Seafaring symbolizes the suffering necessary in the Christian way of life. In this poem, the sailor chooses a severe path as a way towards salvation. He seeks salvation because he misses his old life. In Christianity, “he who lives humbly has angels from Heaven/ to carry him courage and strength and belief” (107-108.65). This religious aspect is included to show that the sailor can go back to his old life through salvation, and through salvation he can go to the afterlife. This is to show that the afterlife is just as good, if not better than life on earth. The Wife’s Lament has elegiac elements that are shown through isolation and despair. In this poem, the narrator is a woman who is lamenting the loss and absence of her husband. She compares her life in the past to what it is in the present. It is obvious that she misses her old life and that she can barely tolerate her present life when she says, “…I have had to suffer since I first grew up, Present and past, but never more than now” (3-4.66).