The poem begins with the Wanderer asking the Lord for understanding and compassion during his exile at sea. He cannot avoid going to sea, however, because this life is his fate. The Wanderer returns to his own example. His kind lord died of old age and as a result, the Wanderer has been exiled from his country. He left home with the coldness of winter in his heart and sailed the rough waves in search of a new lord. He was friendless, yearning for the comforts and pleasures of a new mead-hall, but found none. The Wanderer relates his tale to his readers, claiming that those who have experienced exile will understand how cruel loneliness can feel. The Wanderer is freezing cold, remembering the grand halls where he rejoiced, the treasure he was given, and the graciousness of his lord. All of these joys have now disappeared.