Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

The Wife’s Lament

Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University

The sequence of circumstances alluded to and leading to this lament is entirely unclear. The mood is characteristically Anglo-Saxon, but the rhetorical stance near the beginning is interesting: “I have the right to say what miseries I have endured since I grew up, new or old — never greater than now. Endlessly I have suffered the wretchedness of exile.” The wife asserts her right to lament, and then strikes a theme a male audience will respect: exile.

Also clever is the way the wife acknowledges her own homicidal inclinations without referring to them directly: “Then I found my husband like-minded — luckless, gloomy, hiding murderous thoughts in his heart.”

“I was told to live in an earth-cave beneath and oak tree amid the forest.” This is how individuals were thrown away from the society.

Her final line strikes a gnomic tone: “Woe is the one who, languishing, waits for a lover.”


The Wife’s Lament. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume I. 8th ed. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2006. 113-114.