Read of the Week: The Wife’s Lament by Anonymous


We’re departing from the prose trend for the latest Read of the Week, poetry this time from an unknown author, The Wife’s Lament.

This week’s read is recommended by Grace, a Specialist Practice Mentor at The Reader:

Fifty-three lines long, and dating from the tenth century – when the English we know was as yet in its older Anglo-Saxon form – the voice of this poem nevertheless speaks directly into the present, as it tells of the suffering and personal experience of its nameless ‘wife’.

Unlike Chaucer’s later ‘Middle English’, it is not really possible to locate a definitive translation of this poem, but this is in effect part of the appeal that the poem holds, for language here seems almost invented afresh in an attempt to tell its story.

The wife’s ‘lord’ and husband has left, and she can only imagine where he might be now; she describes herself as an exile, alone and without companions or friends. But the real story is in what this leaves the wife with, both emotionally and psychologically, as she confronts day after day without the man from whom she once vowed she would never part.

The Wife’s Lament

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