The Middle English "Debate between the Body and the Soul"
exists in seven manuscripts:
The Auchinleck and Laud Misc. 108 are generally considered to be the most reliable versions
of the poem and are also the oldest.
Reading Middle English
Reading the three versions of the "Debate between the Body
and the Soul" might intimidate those who have never attempted
to read Middle English. Here are a few hints to ease the process
as you explore the versions on this site:
• The thorn, "þ," sounds like the "th"
sound in modern English. The yogh, "3," can represent
both the "gh" and the "y" of modern English.
For example: line 71 from the Auchinleck version reads "Þer
y sei3e boþe clerk & kni3t." This line can be modernized
to read: "There I saw both clerk and knight."
• The "v" and "u" can be interchangeable;
therefore "vp" should be read "up" and "euen"
• Though the words might look extremely different from
modern English, try reading the text aloud to yourself. The words
often sound more similar to today's English than they look.
• Read the version from the Vernon first. Glosses have
been included to help you understand the more difficult words