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Stunning picture from Wikipedia: Raptor


Excarnator carrying the shen of immortality from Deir al Bahri Hatshepsut Temple. C15th BC.


foržon nu min hyge hweorfeš ofer hrežerlocan
min modsefa mid mereflode
ofer hwęles ežel hweorfeš wide
eoržan sceatas cymeš eft to me
gifre and grędig

Gielleš anfloga
hweteš onwęl weg hrežer unwearnum
ofer holma gelagu

Reckless of that, 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:
a closing death-knell keenly calls

Anon the raptor wails on wing
that steels the naked soul to start
across the waters where the whale sways

more versions of the crux

Bernard Muir's excellent The Exeter Anthology, second edition, 2000 AD, lists 134 critical essays devoted to The Seafarer. Sixteen years on I dare say that number may well be substantially exceeded. The simple fact though is that there are only three publications that genuinely matter, for anyone seeking the basic truth about this poem. These are O.S.Anderson's study in 1937: The Seafarer: An Interpretation; G.V.Smithers' three linked articles The Meaning of The Seafarer and The Wanderer, 1957 and 1959; and my brief paper, The Central Crux of the Seafarer, in 1996.

Unfortunately, the serious student will have to read all the rest of the exegesis, but it is virtually worthless, and consists almost exclusively of self-interested constructions adding to an ever-growing erection of a vacuous house of cards. Only the three contributions mentioned actually advance our understanding of this inexhaustible work. Because this advance is upsetting to the conventionally suited, and those concerned not to tread on any toes that might affect their careers, it tends to be ignored. Consider the following note on wælweg:

Mrs Gordon's rejection of G.V.Smithers' arguments carries no conviction at all.

Smithers' retention of the MS wælweg, and his interpretation of anfloga, are critical bullseyes, as almost no-one dares admit. But Smithers did not carry his investigation of the words of the central crux, lines 58-64, far enough. Nor did I, although I did carry my analysis somewhat further. I felt greatly reassured by my discovery of what Leo had said in 1872 [or 1838 even ?], just as Smithers might have felt reassured by Bessinger. Or was Bessinger influenced by Smithers ?

In my paper I failed to state clearly that unwearnum was a singular adjective, describing a male, in the dative case of attendant circumstances; and I didn't explore the meaning of eft as was necessary.

"In an age when knowledge is a mark of elitism, ignorance is power." Edward Luce, quoted by Jon Sopel.

The anfloga makes what a genuine germanista would call its Angriff, or onslaught.
What anfloga does NOT mean is "one-flier".

urigfežra: © Peter Cairns

He holds him with his skinny hand,
'There was a ship,' quoth he.
'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

the anfloga is rumbled
German English Swedish

the anfloga is "Preying Time" on eagle-wing

Translation of anfloga: J.B.Bessinger, A Short Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, 1960, p 3
attacking or oncoming flier

commentaries: one, two, three [more than 60 other versions], four, five, six
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Anfloga BC1          Anfloga BC2
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Seafarer Fidelity

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2016