The obvious point of analysis for Ælfric's homily is to compare it with the Old English poem of Judith (this is fully explained in the complete edition, Chapter VIII 3.c). The lines in the poem that relate to the feast and assassination are ll.12b-146a (almost half of the extant poem). It is interesting to note the information the poet includes, and chooses to expand (sometimes altering the original Vulgate source material). In the poem:
The surviving portion of the poem has essentially four main roles (Judith, her maid, Holofernes, and the Assyrian soldier), but only two are named. Attention is thus focused on these two polarized characters. In the poem there is only black and white, good and evil, with no room for grey ambiguity. Judith is an exemplary heroine, and Holofernes is the archetypal evil pagan. As Judith contrasts with Holofernes, so are the resolved and victorious Hebrews contrasted with the drunk, and ultimately doomed Assyrians. The polarized forms of good and evil in the poem are not so apparent in Ælfric's version. Judith sets out to deceive Holofernes by dressing mid golde, 7 mid purpuran, 7 mid ænlicum gyrlum (Judith l. 193), so that when he beseah on hire scinendan nebbwlite swa wearð he gegripen mid ðære galnysse his unstæððigan heortan (Judith ll. 206-8). This is an Eve-like temptress using her seductive wiles to destroy the Assyrian. The reason she gives to Holofernes for seeking him out is at best a prevarication, at worst a lie. In the homily the heroine plans and seizes her opportunity, with the suspense being heightened when we are told that the maid has to hold the door to prevent discovery. Whereas the poem goes to some lengths to exonerate Judith from any sin, Ælfric, though clearly full of admiration for her, recognises her human failings and does not attempt to cover them up. In many ways then, Ælfric's version presents a far more complicated story in terms of its presentation of the adversaries.
ll. 231-41. 'Iudith þa abæd...þa foresædan Iudith':In the Vulgate, Holofernes wants Judith to come to his tent of her own accorda point which is ignored by ÆlfricFor it is looked upon as shameful among the Assyrians, if a woman mock a man, by doing so as to pass free from him (12:11).
l. 241. 7 he swa dyde:In effect, this is the author's version of 12:12-14.
ll. 241-49. Heo com þa...ofer his gewunan:That Judith went adorned for nanre galnysse (l. 242) is Ælfric's own addition.
l. 254. Iudith geseah þa:The homily omits Judith's prayers, before the decapitation of Holofernes:
(13:7) Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel, and in this hour look on the works of my hands, that as thou hast promised, thou mayst raise up Jerusalem thy city. And that I may bring to pass that which I have purposed, having a belief that it might be done by thee.
(13:9) And when she had drawn it [Holofernes's sword] out, she took him by the hair of the head, and said: Strengthen me, O Lord God, at this hour.
In contrast, this section of the Latin is greatly expanded in the Old English poem Judith (ll. 83-97), which in effect transforms the murder into a divine act.
ll. 264-67. 7 comon endemes...anum steapum beorge:The homily provides a loose paraphrase of 13:15-16, but in so doing, alters the order of the material as presented in the Latin. For example, mid leohte hire (l. 265) is from 13:16, whilst hi wendon þæt heo ne com na ongean (ll. 265-6) is from 13:15.