As mentioned in the introductory paragraph to the primary text, the two Soul and Body poems vary mainly in two ways: firstly, there are differences in phrasing, but since most of the alternatives are synonymous, there is no real change of meaning. Secondly, the fragmented address of the saved soul to its body is only found in the Vercelli Book version, Soul and Body I, not in Soul and Body II, which is part of the Exeter Book. Both manuscripts were written in the second half of the tenth century, placing their common source before then. Because of the similarity of the two texts, I will discuss here the more complete Soul and Body I as representative for both versions.

No single source is known for the poem. The poet seems rather to have picked out elements from different sources and combined them into a more dramatic argument, supporting his main - didactic - message: Be prepared!

First of all, the poet provides a setting. He reminds his readers that death will surely come and that 'it is necessary for every man to consider for himself the journey his soul will have to makeClick for translation.' The soul will receive 'either torment or glory' from the moment of death to Judgement Day, and thus be judged twice — at death and at the final JudgementClick for footnote. No. 69 of the Sermones ad fratresClick for footnote shares this view and gives a vivid description of

the first incidentClick for footnote. This view of a double judgement was expressed by such important characters as Gregory the GreatClick for footnote and Caesarius of ArlesClick for footnote, who both had immense influence on Anglo-Saxon Christian thought. There are some difficulties connected with this view, though, as Shippey describesClick for footnote: First of all, a more or less final judgement at the point of death 'makes Judgement Day something of a formality'Click for footnote. I do not agree that this is necessarily so. Bede, for example, gives a convincing explanation for a second judgement in a paragraph on the martyrs under the throne of God in his Explanatio ApocalypsisClick for footnote. This explanation stands for the multitudes of the righteous and the sinners as well. Secondly, it is only the soul which is judged at death. Body and soul together will have to answer for their deeds only on Judgement Day itself. The idea of double judgement was competed with, however, by a theory that all souls went to limbo after death and waited there together until Judgement DayClick for footnote. The saints, of course, were excepted from this. This leads us to the next problem to which Shippey points: If the fate of the soul is irreversibly decided right after death, 'ecclesiastical intercession for the dead is of no help'Click for footnote. This leaves no room for masses for the dead.

In Soul and Body I, the poet now introduces the damned soul, which leaves hell every seventh night in order to visit its bodyClick for footnote. The source for this is very probably the Visio Pauli Click for excerpt, a work belonging to the NT Apocrypha and of disputable reputation. Even though this text was strongly opposed in learned circles, it nevertheless enjoyed high popularity throughout the Middle Ages. While the holiday occurs once a year on Easter Day in the original version, it became a weekly day and night of refreshment in the shortened versionsClick for footnote. The poet of Soul and Body I includes some original ideas, and thus changes the underlying meaning of the incident. The soul in the poem does not simply take some time off, but goes to visit its body, while the souls in the Visio are only intended to return to their bodies at the resurrection of the deadClick for footnote. The soul in the Anglo-Saxon poem does not even return on its own account, but is forced to do so: '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'Click for footnote. In the Visio, this day and night off - reduced to a night in the poem - is an act of pity. The poet only considered the symptom, not the cause. This also becomes clear in the return of the saved soul, which is an original element of the writer, used as an explanation of the saved soul's return and for the opposition of the two situations.