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.