, Volume 92, Issue 1, pp 127-139

The interpretation of The Seafarer—a re-examination of the pilgrimage theory

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Abstract

For quite some time now, the Old English poem The Seafarer has been interpreted as an account of an early Insular sea pilgrimage, a peregrinatio pro amore Dei. This reading, I argue, rides roughshot over a number of difficulties, including that of the poem’s apparent internal division. A re-examination of this theory shows that such a reading of the The Seafarer also runs counter to pilgrimage patterns identifiable at the time. As an alternative interpretation of the first part of the poem, I propose the possibility that the narrator may have been a fisherman.