|This 8th century
Old English poem -- one of the very oldest works of English literature
-- comes down to us in the 10th century Vercelli Book. Bits of this
poem are also said to be found on the 8th century Ruthwell Cross -- an
18-foot tall Anglo-Saxon Cross which is inscribed with runes and Latin
text, and is adorned with beautiful and elaborate carvings depicting
Christ. The Ruthwell Cross can be found in Ruthwell, Scotland -- a
village and parish on the Solway Firth that divides England from
Scotland, in an area formerly known as the county of Dumfries, or
Dumfriesshire. Dumfries is now a part of Dumfries and Galloway, one of
Scotlands 32 unitary councils. Presbyterian iconoclasts smashed the
Cross in 1642, but the pieces were saved, and the Cross put back
And now for "The Dream of the Rood." The translation below is by Aaron
Dream of the Rood
What — I will tell of the best of dreams,
that dreamed me in the middle of the night,
once other word-bearers dwelled in rest
It seemed to me that I saw an amazing tree,
aloft on in the air,
bewound with light,
the brightest of beams.
Thoroughly gotten in gold,
poured & pouring,a beacon,
a trace — a sign.
Gems from foreign corners faraway fairness all enfolded,
like these five found uploaded
across this sibling span.
Divine creatures cradle it each & every one
beauteous promise of things to become —
No longer some gallows for the guilty,
they nourished it, these holy messengers
watched it grow for human types
across this mortal garden,
matter & mold made famous.
Every tree a winner,
& this one most of all —
and here I was splattered with sin,
impaled on my imperfections.
I gazed upon the glorious growth,
wreathed in its worthy windings,
joyfully aglow, garnished in golden:
gemstones gladsome bandaged its scars,
the wielder’s tree.
Yet even through dearworthy dressings
I could still look upon its traumas,
wretched & old, so that it began at once
to sweat blood along its right half.
In every part I was dredged in regret —
I was afeared for its fearful beauty.
I witnessed the change, the streaking beacon,
warping its own in clad & color:
sometimes it was blood steaming,
swilling in trills & rills of ruddy sweat;
sometimes it was bedazzled with richness.
Yet I, couching there many long whens,
cradled that healing tree, raw in cares,
until I picked up on it echoing, resounding.
Most fabulous of the forest it flowed in words:
“The years further, memories yet fresh —
hewn down at holt’s end,
dragged from secret dreamings.
Surpassing foes snatched me there,
stood me their own shivering spectacle,
compelled me to crop their criminals.
Carriers carried me upon their shoulders —
though I am no brother to them —
until they rooted me in their realm,
enemies enough fixed me there.
“Then I spotted the first free-born
racing bracing with bravadoto mount me up merrily.
Me there, I didn’t dare sway or shiver
unless lordly words should allow —
then I watched in wavering
the reaches, the distances of earth.
I could have mown these foes down —
yet stood I still.
“Unyaring himself then, this young —
it was god all-surpassing —
strong and set in purpose.
He mounted upwards on gallows,
heightened & humiliated,
impetuous in the imagination
of many & all, when he wanted
to undo his humankind.
“I tremble in the man’s embrace —
Hardly dare to humble me to earth,
tumble down around distant regions,
obligated yet to tower right here.
I was areared a rood —
tree, tower, & sign —
heaving aloft the hearty first,
heavenly bread-giver —
hardly dare to heel or halter.
“They forced me through
with darkness, with nails —
Witness in me their woundcraft
the gashings of gnashing spite.
Hardly dare to savage that lot
making us shame, us two together.
I’m all ooze, bedrooled with blood,
sluiced from, juiced from his side —
once this one had flickered forth.
“Me on hill, I’ve known so much, the wrathing words. I
that being well-attended stretched
into agony. Shadows splinted
by clouds, sovereign raw flesh,
the blearing of the clearness,
darkness blown by & gone away,
skulking beneath stormy skies.
“All creation was wrung,
a hue & cry for first one’s fall —
The anointed was anointed,
as appointed —
Anyways they come cruising,
rushing in from afar to their noble.
I take all this inside.
“Pained perplexed & punctured —
yet I was bowed by crowds,
their hands humble-minding me,
my valor, my greatness.
“They snatched that almighty one,
hefting him from hard heaviness.
Fierce to fight, they’ve forsaken me
to stand there, made to drape blood,
put through with piercing.
“They laid him down, weary limbs,
attending him at the body’s head,
winding up the lord of heavens,
while that one slumbered for some time,
wearied by so much winning.
“Right away they wrung him a warren —
that company in sight of slayers —
carving it from carbuncle, chalcedony
setting him thereon, the player of fortune.
“They set up too a sorrowing song,
wretching in eventides, wanting
to venture out at once,
wearied on behalf of
that ever-known lord—
still among that stilted circle.
“All of us, however,
grouching those good whiles,
footed the foundation,
as murmurings up & left,
of those battling off.
The carcass cooled—
when wicked ones lopped
us both, laid to earth.
Such a dreary outcome!
“The wicked carved us down
into a cavernous cave.
Even still, lordful thanes—
said they were friends—
searched me out
and dragged me up
in gold and in silver.
“Now can you hear,
O you mortal thing you,
how I waded through
the workings of ones
haunting their harrowing,
their sores, their sorrows.
“Now the season is very much upon us—
the hall arrived— when humans
clenched to earth, rooted wide & broad,
worthy me — and all these working
Beseeching this bright beech.
“Upon me the child of God
travailed & tribulated some time.
And so, I tower tall once again,
under pendant skies,
pressed with potence,
now able to cure any one of you,
you who are as afeared as me.
“Back then I became
the worst of ordeals,
hateful to humanity,
before the lively way
was stretched out properly
for all those, the chatterers.
“Okay, at that point in time,
the skipper of splendor,
worthied me above foresty trees,
the ward-keep of vaulted realms.
Just like he honored his own mother—
Mary, that’s her name—
above the lot of other women.
He was god all-surpassing.
“Now let me charge you this,
my charming man, to unclose
this disclosing, speak it wordfully,
to all humanity —
it is this glorious beam
that the ever-powered God pained upon
for the endless defaults of humankind —
even Adam’s ancient workings.
Tasting death, he was mounded under
while this other lord mounted up
amid his manifold mights,
as helpmeet to humankind.
Then he shot into the heavens.
Soonward, he will strive
back to this middle yard,
seeking the seeds of mortals
on the day accounts are due,
the lord themselves,
God ever-compassingamong an angelic entourage,
the urge to judge upon them,
who keeps the right to reckon
each & every one, alone
just as they accrued in the earlier
during this loan we call life.
“Nor can any of them stand fearless
at the pronunciation
that the potentate proclaims.
They will inquire before the entirety
where the mortal might be
who dared to drink death’s bitters
in the name of this lord,
just as this one once did
upon the beaming tree.
Yet they will shiver then
few imagining what they could
offer up to Christ in reply.
No need for any to dread there,
those who blazon the better beacon
across their breast — instead
they shall root out the realm
by means of the rood,
every soul who plans to keep
their reservations with the ruler.”
At that moment, I put in my request
with that shining treew
ith brimming heart,
where I was lonely planted,
my own host scanty.
The channels of my ownsome
so very eager to ferry themselves
onto the forthwards ways,
greeting and meeting
all these whiles,
these miles of mourning.
Now — my life hopes forward,
to find permit to trace the track
of that triumphant tree,
lonesome more often than not —
lauding those limbs as befits
more than other mortals.
The urge in me urges urgently,
the patronage of my heart rood-right.
How am I overfraught with friends
along the folds of the earth,
ever since they turned away
from the pleasances of this place,
flowing forthwards far from here?
They quested themselves towards
the chief charged in grandeur
cohabiting now in the celestiality
with the highest daddy,
glamping out in glory.
Hoping my way all these days
for when this rood, lordly to me
the one I pour over here
on this plane, shall put paid
to the loan of my life
and then pack me up
towards where is every joy,
happiness through heaven —
where the captain’s crew
are seated for the cookout.
There is a singularity of bliss —
I will be seated there as well,
where I may be granted
afterwards an abidingin all this abundance,
living swell among the sainted,
brooking these blissings.
Let the lord sponsor me,
the hallowed who swallowed
here on earth a forest of gallows
for the sins of their fellows.
Delivered from bonds
and given life, a home upwardly.
Anticipation was granted fresh,
draped in fruits & every fairness
to all those who weathered the burning.
That child was surpassing, a sure bet,
poured into the cup of their way,
able and accomplished,
when they entered the fray,
the companionry of souls,
in the realm of god —
single hand on the rudder,
every every power
with angels as ecstasy
and all those sanctified,
the ones who climbed
before into heavens to abide
in all that splendor —
when their wielder arrived,
divine power multiplied,
where their dwelling was.