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Art. 22, In a thestri stude Y stod: Introduction

ABBREVIATIONS: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CCC: Corpus Christi College (Cambridge); CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); IMEV Suppl.: Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse (Robbins and Cutler); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

Set in a dreamlike place of darkness, Debate between Body and Soul is another poem of vivid debate, much like Debate between Winter and Summer (art. 9) and its companion in quire 6, Harrowing of Hell (art. 21). At the end of the quire, the theme will lightly reemerge in the moralistic Three Foes of Man (art. 27). The motif itself has a wide and lengthy history in medieval literature across numerous languages. Utley identifies fourteen distinct forms of the debate in Middle English (MWME 3:692–95). The version here is preserved in two more books, both of which predate MS Harley 2253.

Frequent internal rhyme suggests that the original was composed in septenary quatrains that rhymed in an octave pattern: (a4b3)(a4b3)(a4b3)(a4b3). Lines 1–4 make plain the pattern of internal rhymes. The stanzaic forms that survive, however, show great variation, with many clearly not accidental. In the Harley version, for example, the fifth day in the week before Doomsday is described in a 6-line stanza of shorter lines, aabbcc4 (lines 69–74).

While the poem does not contain speech markers in MS Harley 2253, the shifts in speakers are readily indicated by the names appearing internally near the heads of stanzas. Body and Soul speak alternate stanzas, back and forth, until line 49, when Soul takes over and enumerates the signs before Doomsday. Jesus utters an important line, reported by Soul, announcing his victory over hell (line 92) and also, thereby, providing retroactive linkage to the preceding text, Harrowing of Hell (art. 21). Both parties suffer a miserable fate: Soul goes to hell, and Body rots endlessly in the earth (lines 99–100).

On the Harley version, see Reichl 2000, pp. 227–28; and Phillips, pp. 252–59. For commentary on the Digby version, see Conlee, pp. 10–11; and Raskolnikov, pp. 70–104. Reichl edits the three versions in parallel (1973, pp. 339–65). On the tradition in general, see Lambdin and Lambdin, pp. 140–49.

[Fols. 57r–58v. IMEV, NIMEV 1461. MWME 3:693 [18(f)]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 6. Meter: Roughly thirty 4-line stanzas, aaaa6–7, with irregular stanzas of two, three, and five lines. Layout: No columns, one line per manuscript line. Editions: Wright 1841, pp. 346–49; Böddeker, pp. 235–43; Dove 1969, pp. 220–39; Reichl 1973, pp. 345–65. Other Versions: Bodl. MS Digby 86, fols.195v–197v (Tschann and Parkes, pp. xxx–xxxi [item 68]; ed. Conlee, pp. 10–11; trans. Raskolnikov, pp. 203–06); Cambridge, Trinity College, MS B.14.39, fols. 29v–32r.]

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