The Wife’s Lament

A mysterious poem, where a big part of the translation depends on how you interpret it. We know that the speaker of the poem is a “she”, because grammatical forms in Old English she uses are feminine. Her husband left and her husband’s relatives feel enmity towards her. She now lives in an earth cave beneath the roots of an old oak tree. We do not know exactly why her husband left the country – she says “I must suffer the feud of my beloved”, but we don’t know whether that means she must suffer the consequences of the feud her husband is embroiled in or whether the feud is the enmity he feels towards her, perhaps instigated by her family. She could be like the ladies from Beowulf, a peace-weaver, the wife given away to settle the feud and like in their case, the marriage didn’t work out or help to end the feud. She still misses her husband and imagines he misses her too. The poem, similarly to The Wanderer, ends with advice to keep “a glad countenance” even if your heart is full of sorrow.

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