Mr. Shippey's translation and notes are taken from his book Poems of Wisdom and Learning in Old English.


Certainly it is necessary for every man to consider for himself the journey his soul will have to make, how terrible it will be when death comes, and separates the kinsmen who once were joined: the soul and the body. After that, there will be a long time in which the soul receives from God himself either torment or glory, depending on exactly what its earthly enclosure has earned for it earlier on, in the world.

The spirit will come, crying out in its misery, every seventh nightClick for footnote the soul will find the body that it had worn for so long, it will keep coming for three hundred years, unless almighty God, the king of nations and lord of hosts, means before then to put an end to the world.

Then it calls out sadly with a cold voice, the soul speaks harshly to the dust: 'So, you bloodstained clod,Click for footnote what did you torment me for? Earthly filth, all shrivelled up, effigy of clay, little did you remember what the state of your soul would come to, once it had been taken out of the body. What can you blame me for, damned thing?Click for footnote So, food for worms, you certainly didn't think much, while you were following all your terrible pleasures, about how you will have to be a banquet for the worms, in the earth. See, in the world before you little thought how long it will be here, like this. And look, it was the angel who sent you your soul, by his own hand from heaven above, it was the almighty Ruler in his majesty,Click for footnote and he paid the price for you with his holy blood - and you bound me with a fierce hunger, made me a slave in the torments of hell.

I lived inside you, I could not get out of you, I was enclosed in flesh, and your sinful pleasures oppressed me, so that very often it seemed to me that it was going to be thirty thousand years till the day you died. I waited all the time, with difficulty, for our separation. Certainly the end of it is not so good now! You were puffed up with your feasting and full of wine, you raved in your power; and I was thirsty for God's body, the soul's drink. So you never considered, here in this life, never since I had to live in you in the world, that you had been conceived violently by flesh and by sinful pleasures,Click for footnote but that you were upheld by me - and I was the spirit sent into you by God. You never saved me from these cruel torments of hell, because of the pleasure of your desires.

You will have to suffer shame at my humiliationClick for footnote on that great day when the only-begotten summons all the human race. You are no more popular as a companion to any living man, to your mother or your father or any of your relatives, than the black raven is, not since I went away out of you, alone, by the hand of him by whom I had been sent. Your red ornaments cannot get you out of here now, nor gold nor silver nor any of your goods, not your wife's ring nor your rich house nor any of the goods that you once possessed. But here your stripped bones will have to wait, their sinews torn off; and your soul will often have to seek you out - against my own will - and say foul things to you, just as you did them to me.

Now you are deaf and dumb, your pleasures are nothing. Just the same I must needs visit you at night, pained by sins, but quickly turn away from you again, at cockcrow, when the holy men sing lauds to the living God, so that I can seek the home to which you destined me here, the place where people live in disgrace. And here many mould-worms will chew at you, the black creatures will tear painfully at you, avid and greedy. Your possessions, which here on earth you could show off to men, mean nothing. So it would have been a great deal better for you than all the wealth of the world would have been (unless you had donated it to the Lord himself), if you had been from the beginning a bird, or a fish in the sea, or if you had been an ox and foraged for your food on the ground, like cattle that wander mindlessly in the fields; or that you had been, if God had wished it so, the worst of the wild beasts in the wilderness, even though you had been the fiercest of all the species of snakes, if God had wished it so:Click for footnote it would have been better for you than that you had ever become a man on earth, or that you had ever had to receive baptism.