THE SOUL'S ADDRESS TO THE BODY

[The soul's anger at the sinful body is a very common subject in medieval literature. The grimness of the poem is a common mood in Old English poetry. The fragment describing the gratitude of the saved soul to the body for its self-denial on earth is a much rarer theme.)


I

VERILY it behoves every man that he himself should ponder his soul's state, how sound that is, when death comes, sunders the union which existed before, body and soul. Long is it after that till the soul receives from God Himself either bale or bliss, even as the body won for it erstwhile on earth. The spirit, the soul, shall come, loud in its sorrows, always on the seventh night, for three hundred years, to find the body which long since it wore, unless ere that the great King, Almighty God, the Lord of lords, will bring the end of the world. Then, most woeful, it will cry in a cold voice; the soul will speak sternly to the dust:

'What hast thou done, sorrowful one? What affliction hast thou caused me; the foulness of earth falls all to ruin, like unto clay. Little didst thou think what thing thy soul should afterwards become when freed from the body. What hadst thou to blame in me, accursed? Lo! thou didst little think to be the food of worms, when thou didst follow all the lures of pleasure; now in the earth thou shalt feed worms. Lo! in the world before little didst thou think how long this lasts. Lo! the Lord almighty by His own hand sent thee a soul by an angel from the heavens on high from His majesty and bought thee with the holy blood; and thou didst bind me with grievous hunger and fetter me with hell-torments. I dwelt within thee; compassed by flesh I could not come out of thee, and thy sinful lusts lay heavy upon me, so that full often it seemed to me that it would be thirty thousand years till thy death-day; ever with pain I waited till we two should part. Verily the end now is not over- good. Thou wert proud in thy food and glutted with wine; thou wert gloriously daring, and I was athirst for the body of God, for spiritual drink. Wherefore here in life, when I was

-280-

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Anglo-Saxon Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents xiii
  • Beowulf 1
  • Finnesburh 63
  • Waldhere 65
  • Widsith 67
  • Deor 71
  • The Wanderer 73
  • The Seafarer 76
  • The Wife's Lament 79
  • The Husband's Message 81
  • Wulf and Eadwacer 83
  • The Ruin 84
  • Charms 85
  • Genesis 95
  • Exodus 112
  • Daniel 121
  • Christ and Satan 127
  • Juliana 165
  • The Fates of the Apostles 178
  • Andreas 181
  • Elene 211
  • The Dream of the Rood 235
  • The Phoenix 239
  • Physiologus 252
  • Guthlac 256
  • The Soul's Address to the Body 280
  • Doomsday 284
  • Riddles 289
  • Gnomic Poetry 309
  • The Arts of Men 316
  • The Fates of Men 318
  • Judith 320
  • The Battle of Brunanburh 327
  • The Battle of Maldon 329
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