Exeter Book “The Wife’s Lament” Summary and Analysis

1 January 2018

The Wife’s Lament

The poem The Wife’s Lament is known very well within the Anglo Saxon elegy, although to this day, this challenges some scholars to be, in fact, a riddle. However, The Wife’s Lament is an elegy that is being told from a female narrator mourning for her husband and reflecting on her loss. This shares the same characteristics as an elegy, this includes the passing time, exile, longing, separation, and pain. This poem has been characterized as a riddle, That the narrator displays an element of mystery in his/her writing. Most Anglo Saxon elegies are monologues spoken by an undefined character that is cut off from human society, friends, family, and the comfort of their own home.

Losing her importance and role in society by exile, as well as her sense of belonging, therefore, she experiences loneliness throughout the passing of time, wishing she would get a life of happiness she had once known. This allows us the reader the feel the aching of absence, separation, and longing using vivid imagery. Though Faye Walker Pelkey, a literary scholar, has pointed out that the poem has “riddle-like flavor” (Making The Wife’s Lament possible one of the more perfect Anglo Saxon riddle ever written), this remains an expressive, complex, and emotional Anglo-Saxon elegy with the consistent tone of longing.

She didn’t deserve what she was handed per se because, she was exiled by her husband, her, and her happy lifestyle. The husband should not have done as he did but he allowed this to happen to leave her lonely for the rest of her life. However, she stayed strong and continued to believe her husband cared and loved her even after everything had gone on. She is also left in agony due to her lord being in a cold, dark desolate place. This was a tense poem with some pithy to the story of this woman that has some metaphorical context.

Anglo Saxon poems are meant to have sorrow to allow the person to feel the emotion of the story. She was exiled by her husband and because of her lord forsook his people. Her husband allowed this to happen to her which he should not have put in this time period this was their way of punishments. This poem was one if not the best riddles of the Anglo Saxon elegy displaying a lot of mystery from her story she has told.

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