I (Vercelli Book version)

 

[The numbering stems from the fact that the Vercelli Book was the second volume in the ASPR, whereas the Exeter Book was the fourth, so it would have been encountered first.

[Also the Vercelli and Exeter Book versions are related, with some variation, and the Vercelli version is about forty lines longer, adding onto the ending of II.]

 

Indeed, it behooves all of these heroes
to ponder the passage of his own soul—
how grievous it must be when death arrives,
disjoining the siblings, once going together,
body and soul! For long afterwards
it shall be the case, that the ghost takes
for its own good, such torment and such glory,
just as that cup of earth previously
worked for them both in this world. (ll. 1-8)

The soul must come, clamorous with cares,
always finding about every seventh night
its body-home, that it wore long before,
three hundred winters ago, unless the King of Nations
should bring about, Almighty God,
the Lord of Hosts, the end of the world. (ll. 9-14)

Then the sorrowing soul calls out with cold voice,
speaking grimly, ghost to the dust:
“What have you have labored, blood-stained,
towards that torments me so, O full of earth,
entirely decayed, the very likeness of loam!
Little did you remember the final affair
of your soul that should become afterwards,
after she is conducted from your body-home! (ll. 15-21)

“Harumph! Know this of me, O accursed!
Harumph! Indeed you are a delicacy for worms,
How little you thought, when you passed onwards,
into every terrifying hunger, how you must become
a banquet-table for vermin! Look, you were in the world once
thinking little on how the road is long from here.
Alas, the soul was sent to you by angels above from heaven,
through his own hand, the Measurer Almighty,
from his Power Majestic, and then purchased for you
with holier blood—and you have bound me
into a harsher hunger and captived me
into the very torments of hell! (ll. 22-32)

“I dwelt within you. I never could exist without you,
enclosed in flesh, and your criminal desires
crushed me. It very often seemed to me
that there would be thirty thousand
winters until your death-day. Ever I begged
miserably for our parting.
Indeed that end has not turned out too well! (ll. 33-38)

“You were proud at your feast and sated with wine,
prominent, majestic, and I thirsted
for God’s body, for the drink of souls.
You were never mindful in those moments, here in this life,
since I had to dwell with you in the world,
so that you were guided eagerly by your flesh
and your criminal desires, and strengthened by me,
and I was the ghost sent within you by God—
you never preserved me from the compulsion,
from the torments of hell so harsh by your lust for pleasure. (ll. 39-49)

“You must suffer the shame of my ruination
on the greatest of days, when the only-begotten
gathers together all the kindred of men.
You are not now the dearer to any living being,
a mate to men, neither to mother nor father,
nor to any siblings, than the darkened raven,
after I journeyed away from you alone
through your own doing, when I was sent out before. (ll. 50-56)

“Nor can these scarlet trappings set you free
henceforth, neither gold nor silver, nor any of your material goods,
not this wedding ring, nor your big house —
not any of these goods that you once owned
but they should remain here, bereaved of bones,
torn in your sins, and your soul
must often seek you, repugnant to me,
reviled with words, just as you did to me. (ll. 57-64)

“You are deaf and dumb—
you no longer possess any of your pleasures!
I must nevertheless seek you perforce nightly,
agonized by our sins, and turn away from you
at once at cock-crow, when holy men
sing their praises to the Living God,
seeking the abodes to which you have consigned me,
and that merciless homestead,
and the many mold-worms must chew upon you,
tearing you horribly, darkened creatures,
gluttonous and greedy. None of your possessions are yours,
which you once showed off to men on this earth. (ll. 65-75)

“Therefore it would have been better for you by a great deal—
more than all the profits of this earth were yours—
unless you had shared them for God’s sake—
that you should have been at the first making
a fowl or a fish in the sea,
or a beast of the earth, exerting itself in eating,
a field-stomping cow without kind wisdom,
or in the wastelands as the wildest of wild animals
wherever God wished it, or even if you were
the worst of the kindred of creeping creatures—
more than you ever should have become a man
upon the earth, who must receive baptism. (ll. 76-87)

“When you have to answer for us both
on that greatest day, when the wounds
of all mankind shall be revealed,
those that criminals committed in the world
in elder days, then will the Lord himself,
the Shaper of the Heavens, wish to hear
their deeds, from the voice of their mouths
of every human being, all of the heroes
as recompense for his wounds. And what will you
say unto our Lord there on the day of judgment? (ll. 88-96)

“Then there will be no joint so small in your body
that you must pay retribution for every one singly,
when the Lord shall be fearsome in his judgment.
And what have we done for our sakes?
We must soon afterwards brook twinned miseries,
just as you have ordained for us here before!” (ll. 97-102)

Thus the soul reviles that flesh-hoard, and then must
go on its way, seeking the bottom of hell—
not at all the joys of heaven—afflicted by its deeds.
The dust lies where it was, nor can it speak any answer
nor is it promised any refuge for a miserable spirit,
no consolation nor comfort— (ll. 103-7)

Its head is cleaved open, hands fallen apart,
jaws gaping, throat torn apart,
sinews sucked out, neck gnawed up,
fingers tumbled to earth,
ribs ravaged by fearsome worms,
That tongue has been devoured in ten directions,
hungrily as their sole comfort—
therefore it cannot so quick-wittedly bandy
about words with that accursed spirit. (ll. 108-15)

Glutton is the name of that worm, whose jaws
are sharper than needles. That one is driven—
first of all in the earthen grave—
to destroy that tongue, boring through those teeth,
and he made room for others to rummage —
he ate through the eyes up upon the head,
and so the others could feast, he cleared out a space
for worms as a banquet. That accursed body
has just cooled, that for long as garbed in fine garments—
Now it is a platter for the worms, a meal in the dirt.
So that can serve as reminder to men,
for every one of the mind-perceptive (ll. 116-26)

Then it shall be joyous — that the holy soul
shall voyage back to its flesh, wound in comfort.
That messenger more blessed shall be found
in the spirit. With rejoicing it seeks
pleasantly that bowl of dirt that it wore
for many years before. Then the souls
shall speak a good word, wise, fixed in victory,
and thus truly and happily greet its body-house: (ll. 127-34)

“My dearest friend, though the worms
have addressed you greedily, now has your spirit
returned, splendidly outfitted, from the realm
of my father, encircled with his mercies.
Alas, my lord —if I were allowed to lead you
by my side, to where we could catch sight of
all the angels, glory of heaven, just as
you had appointed me in this place. (ll. 135-41)

“You fasted on earth, and fattened me
with God’s body, the drink of the soul.
You abided your poverty, giving me your plenty of desire.
Therefore you need not be ashamed,
when they are parted, the sinful and the soothfast,
upon that renowned day, for what you gave me.
Nor is there need to mourn here in this life
for all the very many virtues that you granted me
in the moot-hall of men and angels. (ll. 142-50)

“You have abased yourself before all humanity,
and heaved me aloft into eternal joys.
Therefore it give me perpetual pain,
dearest of men, sharply in my heart,
to know that you dwell in such dereliction,
as a feast for the worms, but God wants it,
that you must choose such a loathsome lying-bed. (ll. 151-55)

“I would have it spoken then, that you sorrowed not:
therefore let us be gathered together upon the judgment of God.
Let us be allowed to relish existence as one afterwards
and the two of us set up high in the heavens.
We need not worry so at the coming of the Lord,
nor have an wicked recompense for all that,
an ache in the chest — yet we two can ourselves
feel proud at doomday for our deeds,
what deserts were ours — (ll. 156-64)

“I know that you were grown up so triumphantly
in the realms of this existence…” (ll. 165-66)

[end apparently missing]

 

 

II (Exeter book version)

Indeed, it behooves all of these heroes
to care for the passage of his own soul—
how grievous it must be when death arrives,
disjoining the siblings, once going together,
body and soul! For long afterwards
it shall be the case, that the ghost takes
for its own good, such torment and such glory,
just as that cup of earth previously
worked for them both in this world. (ll. 1-8)

The soul must come, clamorous with cares,
always finding about every seventh night
its body-home, that it wore long before,
three hundred winters ago,
unless the Eternal Lord should bring about,
Almighty God, the end of the world. (ll. 9-14)

Then the sorrowing soul calls out with cold voice,
speaking grimly, ghost to the dust:
“What have you have labored, blood-stained,
towards that torments me so, O full of earth,
entirely decayed, the very likeness of loam!
Little did you think upon what end should occur
for the journey of your soul afterwards,
after she is conducted from your body-home!  (ll. 15-21)

“Harumph! Know this of me, O accursed!
Harumph! Indeed you are a delicacy for worms,
thinking little on how the road is long from here,
how the soul was sent to you by angels above from heaven,
through his own hand, the Measurer Almighty,
from his Power Majestic, and then purchased for you
with holier blood—and you have bound me
into a harsher hunger and captived me
into the very torments of hell! (ll. 22-29)

“I dwelt within you. I never could exist without you,
enclosed in flesh, and your criminal desires
crushed me. It very often seemed to me
that there would be thirty thousand
winters until your death-day. Listen, I begged
miserably for our parting. That end has not turned out too well! (ll. 30-35)

“You were proud at your feast and sated with wine,
prominent, majestic, and I thirsted
for God’s body, for the drink of souls.
There you considered then, here in this life,
while I had to dwell with you in the world,
so that you were guided eagerly by your flesh
and your criminal desires, and strengthened by me,
and I was the ghost sent within you by God—
you never prepared me for the compulsion,
for the torments of hell so harsh by your lust for pleasure. (ll. 36-45)

“Yet you must suffer the shame of my ruination
on the greatest of days, when the only-begotten
gathers together all the kindred of men.
You are not now the dearer to any living being,
a mate to men, neither to mother nor father,
nor to any siblings, than the darkened raven,
after I journeyed away from you alone
through your own doing, when I was sent out before. (ll. 46-53)

“Nor can these scarlet trappings set you free
henceforth, neither gold nor silver, nor any of your material goods,
but they should remain here, bereaved of bones,
torn in the sinews, and your soul
must often seek you, repugnant to me,
reviled with words, just as you did to me. (ll. 54-59)

“You are deaf and dumb—
you no longer possess any of your pleasures!
I must nevertheless seek you perforce nightly,
agonized by our sins, and turn away from you
at once at cock-crow, when holy men
sing their praises to the Living God,
seeking the abodes to which you have consigned me,
and that merciless homestead,
and the many mold-worms must chew upon you,
tearing your sinews, darkened creatures,
gluttonous and greedy. None of your possessions are yours,
which you once showed off to men on this earth. (ll. 60-70)

“Therefore it would have been better for you by a great deal—
more than all the profits of this earth were yours—
unless you had shared them for God’s sake—
that you should have been at the first making
a fowl or a fish in the sea,
or a beast of the earth, exerting itself in eating,
a field-stomping cow without kind wisdom,
or in the wastelands as the wildest of wild animals
wherever God wished it, or even if you were
the worst of the kindred of creeping creatures—
more than you ever should have become a man
upon the earth, who must receive baptism. (ll. 71-81)

“When you have to answer for us both
on that greatest day, when the wounds
of all mankind shall be revealed,
those that criminals committed in the world
in elder days, then will the Lord himself
wish to hear of their deeds, from the voice
of their mouths of every human being,
as recompense for his wounds. And what will you
say unto our Lord there on the day of judgment? (ll. 82-89)

“Then there will be no joint so small in your body
that you must pay retribution for each one singly,
when the Lord shall be fearsome in his judgment.
And what have we done for our sakes
when he has resurrected us both a second time?
We must soon afterwards brook twinned miseries,
just as you have ordained for us here before!” (ll. 90-96)

Thus the soul reviles that flesh-hoard, and then must
go on its way, seeking the bottom of hell—
not at all the joys of heaven—afflicted by its deeds.
The dust lies where it was, nor can it speak any answer
nor is it promised any refuge for a miserable spirit,
no consolation nor comfort— (ll. 97-102)

Its head is cleaved open, hands fallen apart,
jaws gaping, throat torn apart,
sinews sucked out, neck gnawed up,
ribs ravaged by fearsome worms,
drinking the corpse in plunder, thirsty for gore.
That tongue has been devoured in ten directions,
hungrily as their sole comfort—
therefore it cannot so quick-wittedly bandy
about words with that accursed spirit. (ll. 103-10)

Glutton is the name of that worm, whose jaws
are sharper than needles. That one dares to,
first of all in the earthen grave—
he destroyed that tongue, boring through his teeth,
and he made room for others to feast,
and he ate through the eyes up upon the head,
for worms as a banquet. That accursed body
has just cooled, that for long as garbed in fine garments—
Now it is a platter for the worms, a meal in the dirt. (ll.111-20a)

So that can serve as reminder to men,
for every one of the mind-perceptive (ll. 120b-21)

 

 

The Grave (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS 343)

It was built for you, a house before you were born —
for you alone, this earth laid out — before you arrived by your mother.

Yet it was not at all set out, nor its depths fathomed,
nor was it yet plumbed — what lengths it would be for you.

Now you are brought to me, where you must be laid.
Now they must measure you and then me —
measure the earth as well.

Never will this house for you be built so lofty —
it shall be the opposite, low to the ground.

The ends shall be very low,
the sides not much higher:
the roof built close to your chest.

And so you must abide so chilly within the mould,
so darksome, so shadowy —
your lair enfouls itself all about you.

Doorless is that house, and dark it is within.
There you will be fettered fast, and death keeps the key.

Loathsome is that house of earth—grim inside to stay—
but there you must stay and worms will rend at you.

In this way you will be stretched out
and your dear friends will detest you.
You have no one that wishes to visit you —

that will ever look in upon you
to see how you like the new place —
that ever will unlatch the door —
let in a bit of light…

All too soon you will become awful, hateful to see —
all too soon your head will be shorn of its hair —
all that lovely hair, shed —
no one there to caress it with their fingers.

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