Th. Batiouchkof suggested in his lengthy study of 1891 that the source for this idea might be the Visio Pauli or Apocalypse of Paul (ed. and trans. M.R. James, 1893, 1924), a fourth century work which puts forward inter alia the merciful theory that all damned souls receive a holiday. Easter Day in the original version, but in later accounts every weekend from noon on Saturday to dawn on Monday, 'efre forð to domes dei', as an Early Middle English sermon puts it (ed. R. Morris, 1867, pages 41-7). It is at least plausible that the soul returning to its body from torments, in the Old English poem, is meant to be taking its holiday in an appropriate form. [Introduction]
'Druh' is a word not found elsewhere. Both Grein (1912) and Bosworth-Toller (1898) suggest 'dust' as a translation.
3 If 'Hwæt' is an interjection here, as in the next verse and elsewhere, rather than an interrogative pronoun, object of 'wite', one might take this sentence as another rhetorical question aimed at the body's silence: 'What, are you blaming me, damned thing?'
4 Christ is called 'halig encgel' or 'engla beorhtast' elsewhere in O.E. poetry (see ASPR Vol II p. 126). But it is likely that this passage has been confused by a copyist; the version of the poem in the Exeter Book has 'þe þurh engel': 'and the almighty Ruler sent you your soul by an his own hand'.
5 This is a repellent and ascetic sentiment. A more charitable translation is R.K. Gordon's 'thou didst not think that thou wert sorely troubled by flesh and sinful lusts' (1954), following Grein's 'du durchs Fleisch...mächtig warst bewegt' (1859). But both these translators have adopted the Exeter Book reading of 'gestyred' for 'gestryned': this indeed makes good sense, but the Vercelli reading is not inconsistent with the poet's attitudes.
6 Here I have, myself inconsistently, felt obliged to adopt the Exeter Book reading, 'gescenta', for the Vercelli one, 'gesynta', safety, success, prosperity'. The former is not recorded elsewhere, but must derive from 'gescendan', 'to put to shame'. The ASPR editors insist that 'gesynta' 'must be allowed to stand', translating 'shalt thou on the great day of my prosperity suffer in shame'. But the soul never elsewhere thinks that its fate will be different from that of its body, indeed it repeatedly says the opposite. The dot over the 'y' in the Vercelli MS may indicate some early awareness of an error.
7 Here the scribe has lost track of the rhythm. As he writes the poem ... neither 82b nor 84b scan, and 83 does not alliterate properly. A slightly different arrangement of the words in the Exeter Book version produces three more regular lines corresponding to 82-5 here, but without the clumsy repetition of 'þær swa god wolde'.
8 In two articles in Notes and Queries (1968 and 1969) T.D. Hill has suggested analogues for this thought rather closer than the obvious one mentioned in the introduction. ['Most relevant, perhaps, is the fact that from the Christian message the poet has chosen to convey only one thing: that the world is a dangerous and deceitful place where men need to have their wits about them, where second thoughts are wisest. At line 95 the poet reflects that not even Christ's blood is free: everything has to be paid for, sin by sin and limb by limb.' (Introduction]
9 The Exeter Book has 'se geneþeð to', 'he is the first of all to set to', possibly a better reading. It should be mentioned that in spite of this, and notes 4 to 7 above, the version of the poem in the Exeter Book is by no means always superior; it loses the sense on several occasions.
10 There is no break between lines 159 and 161 in the MS, but 'brucan is rarely if ever used intransively to mean 'to enjoy oneself', as some have assumed. The line inserted was suggested by Grein in 1857; it makes 159-60 an echo of 101-2, one of several similar repetitions in the poem. Lines appear to have been dropped from O.E. poems quite frequently. The Vercelli version has up to seven lines not in Exeter (out of 126); Exeter has three not in Vercelli.
11 It is a pity that the poem breaks off here, with the loss of a page, for the soul appears to be about to say something of the body's social status: unless 'geþungen þrymlice' refers not to rank but to moral progress, 'you had advanced with great zeal', in which case 'on woruldrice' would mean no more than 'when you were alive'.