One large fragment of the text has survived in the margins and empty pages of a codex marked as the possession of Louis the German and now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (cim. 14098). The beginning and end of the poem have not come down on us. It was re-discovered in 1817 and first published in 1832 by Johann Andreas Schmeller, who also titled it Muspilli, after a central word in the text.
The etymology and meaning of the term Muspilli (a hapax legomenon) is uncertain, but it is surmised to describe some sort of cataclysmic end of the world in fire (ekpyrosis). The poem is an example of early Germanic Christianity, combining pagan elements with the Biblical or Christian concepts, featuring Elijah, the Antichrist and the Last Judgement.
Grau (1908) connects all of the material in the poem except for two verses to the 4th century theologian Ephraim the Syrian.
The focus of the text is first on the fate of the soul after death. The hosts of heaven and hell do battle over the deceased individual's soul and the winning party will carry it off as booty (v. 1-37). Attention then shifts to another battle, the battle between Elijah and the Antichrist, which the text says will precede the Last Judgement. The two combatants are fighting as championsGod and the Devil, respectively. The Antichrist will fall but Elijah will be wounded and his blood dripping on the Earth will set the world on fire – announcing the muspilli (v. 38-56). The rest of the poem is concerned with the Resurrection and Judgment Day itself (v.57-103). for
- der antichristo stet pi demo altfiant,
- stet pi demo Satanase, der inan uarsenkan scal:
- pidiu scal er in deru uuicsteti uunt piuallan
- enti in demo sinde sigalos uuerdan.
- doh uuanit des uilo ... gotmanno,
- daz Elias in demo uuige aruuartit uuerde.
- so daz Eliases pluot in erda kitriufit,
- so inprinnant die perga, poum ni kistentit
- enihc in erdu, aha artruknent,
- muor varsuuilhit sih, suilizot lougiu der himil,
- mano uallit, prinnit mittilagart,
"The Antichrist stands with the old fiend,
- With the Satan, whom he will ruin:
- On the battlefield, he falls wounded
- And in battle without victory
- But many men of God ween
- That Elijah will be wounded in that battle,
- When the blood of Elijah drips onto the soil
- The mountains will burn, no tree will stand,
- Not any on earth, water dries up,
- Sea is swallowed, flaming burn the heavens,
- Moon falls, Midgard burns"