Some Swedish Seafarer words: anflygare, efter, grus, holme, hg, må, ovrn, skura, skte, stten, srja, valväg (valplats), varþer, vng.
Some linked Anglish words: anfloga, eft, hrusan, holma, hyge, mg, unwearnum, scur, sceata, sias, sorge, wl weg, hreer, wongas

The Hard Part

Believing that The Seafarer poem had been composed by anyone other than a missionary monk would be akin to believing that Harp Song of the Dane Women (click) had been composed by an abandoned Viking wife, of remarkable literacy.

Let us assume that the life of this monk, the author of the poem, had started from a situation similar to one of the Angels noticed by Pope Gregory. Aged in his teens, he had been enslaved. He came from "Angulus" rather than Angeland. He had memories of the history of his people, notably their hero Beowulf, from times gone by. He was now about 35 years old, in the year, say, about 685 AD; and was reasonably well-secured in an Angeland monastery. See The Secret Archives of the Vatican, on earlier page.

The Romans had left Britain in 410. Bur they had returned, to reimpose their authority under the guise of religion. Their religion was enthusiastically endorsed by some of those in power. The idea of the thought police attracted. Others were less pliable.

Meanwhile, The Seafarer poet, aged 35, was starting to feel he was about midway on the journey of his life. He did not feel himself to be within a dark forest however, but rather, given his heritage, upon an ocean, savage, rough and stern. Cold fetters froze his feet. Hailstones scoured his skin. This journey was patently metaphorical.



plus halo

The Seafarer poet

and trained in

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

So far so good. Now comes the hard part. This will consist in matching the thoughts and expressions found in the seafarer poem to texts by earlier Latin, and even future Italian, authors. The way has, arguably, been opened by scholars who have detected the influence of Lactantius, 250-325 AD. See here. However, what sparked my first interest was the following comment on Lucretius, c99 BC - c55 BC, by Thomas Nail: "if all movement is also death .. Living is dying, and dying is living. The two are united in the same kinetic process." This swiftly brought to mind these lines from The Seafarer: "God's visions are to me more vivid / than this dead life loaned out on land." The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that the Seafarer poet was familiar with Lucretius. The familiarity appears initially to be merely through the choice of words, but does the ideology follow the words ? Not entirely or exactly.

The future poet, Dante, 1265 - 1321, was to find himself astray from the "straight way" (diritta via, also translatable as "right way") of salvation. He is rescued by a figure who announces that he was born sub Iulio (ie in the time of Julius Caesar) and lived under Augustus: it is the shade of the Roman poet Virgil, 70 BC - 19 BC, author of the Aeneid, and more or less contemporary with Lucretius. Dante was much later to be eclipsed by the American genius, Ezra Pound. I kid you not. That task I leave to his Boswell, Kenner.

In 1417 AD de rerum natura, composed circa 55 BC, was discovered in a German monastery. Whatever its philosophy, its survival can only have been due to it having been copied by monks. Other copies must therefore have existed in other monasteries, if later lost.

I've come to believe that the author of the poem known as The Seafarer was familiar with the verse masterpiece of Lucretius, and especially Book III; Mortality and the Soul. I feel that Lucretius was a greater influence upon the poet than Lactantius. Had the poet been subjected to a compare and contrast exercise ? You tell me.

Book III. After a glowing opening apostrophe to Epicurus ("O glory of the Greeks!"), the poet proceeds with an extended explanation and proof of the materiality - and mortality of the mind and soul. This explanation culminates in the climactic declaration, "Nil igitur mors est ad nos. . ." ("Therefore death is nothing to us"), a stark, simple statement which effectively epitomizes the main message and central doctrine of Epicureanism.

Here's Lucretius, III 136, translated by Ferguson Smith: "I say that mind and spirit are held in conjunction together and compond one nature in common, but that the head so to speak and lord over the whole body is the understanding which we call mind and intelligence. And this has its abiding-place in the middle region of the breast."

Here's the Anglian poet: "My thought is thrown beyond my heart's cage now. My mind is cast upon the sea swell, over the whale's world widely to course creation's coast:

Here's Lucretius, III 455: "When the body is now wrecked with the mighty strength of time, and the frame has succumbed with blunted strength, the intellect limps, the tongue babbles, the intelligence totters, all is wanting and fails at the same time."

Here's the Anglian poet: "Life ebbs, the flesh feels less and fails to savour sweet or sour, is frail of hand, feeble of mind".

Here's Lucretius, III 904: "We beside you, as you lay burnt to ashes on the horrible pyre, have bewailed you inconsolably, and that everlasting grief no time shall take from our hearts."

Here's the Anglian poet: "A man should steer a steadfast course; be constant, clean and just in judgement; a man should curb his love or loathing, though flame consume his comrade, and fire the funeral pyre."

Perhaps the only trait that these two poets really have in common is their concern with mortality. What lives on after death ? Lucretius belittles death. The seafarer poet would like to agree with him, but he comes out with what he's been told to say. Hence the unease that critics have felt in writing about The Seafarer, perhaps sensing that its author was in two minds about what he was saying. A blurb for de rerum natura states: "This is a poem that demonstrates to humanity that in death there is nothing to fear since the soul is mortal, and the world and everything in it is governed by the mechanical laws of nature and not by gods". Is this the belief that persists at the back of the Anglian's mind ? Only one thing survives a man's death: his reputation. Heaven is a haven peddled by Christian Rome.

A brief recap of the monoglot Seafarer text translation errors. Obvious examples are the ridiculous emendation of wl to read hwl, ie reading "death" as "whale"; and the ludicrous interpretation of sceat as "sheet", or "spreading regions", when the word means "bosom" or "lap". The word unwearnum, meaning "helpless", is usually idiotically rendered as "irresistibly". The more I contemplate the meaning generally assigned to anfloga, ie "one-flier", the sillier it seems.

The ethnicity of, and migrations into, the British Isles, during the years before about 500 AD, seem recently to have become a free-for-all topic, with several experts entering the fray. Bede, who was quite a punster, was writing perhaps some multiple hundred years after the alleged events. The consensus appears to be that he was more creative than strictly correct in his historiography, and that the "facts" are up for some hefty revision. This is in spite of the popular saying that it is a pity to spoil a good story with the truth.

New interpreters of The Seafarer lean towards the baleful influence of Enoch Soames, who succeeded in distorting understanding of the poem for at least 50 years. His followers use the original composition as a jumping-off point for their own convoluted creations, which bear minimal resemblance to the original..

It was pointed out by David Burns (RIP) that there are over a thousand place-names in modern Sweden which start Angel, Engel or Ingel. Why is England pronounced Ingland ? Pure chance, of course.

There are few countries in Europe concerning which the average Englishman knows so little as Sweden; this is the more remarkable, for there are many reasons for believing that the English race originated in Sweden.         from Unknown Sweden: Steveni: 1925

The bipartite construction of The Seafarer is examined here. And here (click).

See further comments on anfloga here.

more forgotten anfloga notes

back to Lucretius

another page
anfloga again
anguish anew
favourite topics    journey's jargon
The C O E Reader. Scroll down for Borges.
The Seafarer and The Wanderer. G.V.Smithers
Space-Time    Old Anguish
An, Ân, & Eft: Old English Grammar. A. Campbell
Pretentious Fake
R.I.Page and the DOE
Hugr, Hyge, Håg
The prefix un- in Anglo-Saxon
the central crux of the seafarer
Biblical Echoes
re: unwearnum
visualizations of the anfloga

frosted (?) feathers

ice-feathered tern


essays and papers

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2019
all rights reserved

A Handy Reading List

Greenblatt, Stephen
Thomas Nail
Of the Nature of Things
Lucretius, Poet, Philosopher
De Rerum Natura
The Nature of the Universe
The Nature of Things
The Swerve
Lucretius I:
NOTE:    translator/subtitle/other
A Metrical Translation. William Ellery Leonard
President, St John's, Cambridge
M.Ferguson Smith: Latin/English text
A.E.Stallings & Richard Jenkyns: verse
How the Renaissance began; pp 185 - 199
An Ontology of Motion

Ontology = branch of metaphysics dealing with the theory of pure being or reality (?).

An interesting talk on Lucretius by Greenblatt; here:
Heavy criticism of Greenblatt; here:

Here is a very highly recommended article by Colleen L. Klees: Click.

Lucretius contemplates his poem

King Yngve names his domains