Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Dream of the Rood

But yet I lying a long time there
25 gazed at the Savior's troubled tree,
until that I heard it call out;
the best wood began then to speak words:
"That was years gone by--I still remember--
that I was hewn down at the forest's edge,
30 cut out of my tree trunk. Strong foes took me there,
shaped me there for themselves in the form of a spectacle,
commanded me to raise their criminals.
Warriors carried me there on shoulders,
until that they set me on a hill;
many foes fastened me there. I then saw mankind's Lord
hasten with great zeal; he wished to climb on me.
35 There I then darest not bow nor burst
contrary to the Lord's word when I saw earth's surface
trembling. I would have been able
to kill all foes but I stood firm.
The young hero stripped himself--that was God almighty--
40 strong and unflinching; he stepped up on the high cross,
brave in the sight of many,
where he wished to redeem mankind.
I trembled when the Warrior embraced me;
nor did I dare, however, to bow down to the earth,
to fall to the surfaces of the earth. But I had to stand firm.
As a rood I was erected; I raised the powerful King,
45 the Lord of heavens; I dared not bow myself down.
They drove through me with iron-colored and sinister nails:
on me the wounds are visible,
the open malicious wounds;
neither dared I to injure any of them.
They mocked us two both together.
I was completely stained with blood,
covered from the man's side after he had released his spirit.
50 I had endured on that hill much of cruel fates.
I saw the God of hosts
severely stretched out. Shades of night had
covered with clouds the Lord's corpse,
the bright radiance; shades went forth
55 dark under the sky. All creation mourned,
bewailed the king's fall; Christ was on the cross.
"But there the eager ones came from afar
to the Prince. I beheld it all.
I was with sorrows sorely afflicted;
I bent down nevertheless to the hands of the warriors,
60 submissive, with great zeal.
They took there the almighty God,
raised him from the heavy torture. The warriors left me
to stand covered over by moisture;
I was all with punctures wounded.
They lay the limb-weary one there; t
hey themselves stood at his body's head;
they gazed there at the heaven's Lord,
and he himself there a time rested,
65 weary after that great battle.
They, the warriors, themselves began to form
an earth-urn in the sight of the rood;
they carved that out of bright stone;
they placed therein the Lord of victory.
They themselves then began to sing a dirge,
wretched in the evening hour,
then they wished again to travel,
weary from the glorious prince;
he rested there with a small band.
70 However we there weeping a good while
stood in a fixed position. The voice of the warriors
rose up. The corpse cooled,
the fair dwelling of the soul. Then a man began to fell us
all to earth. That was a dreadful fate!
75 One dug us into a deep pit.
However, there the Lord's servants,
friends, found me by seeking;
they adorned me with gold and with silver.

Dream of the Rood

The Dream of the Rood is found in an 11th century manuscript written in West Saxon. Parts of the same text are found in runes on the Ruthwell Cross, Northumbria, dated 8th century. It is thought that the second half of the poem (Lines 77 on) has a different author. Much of the discussion of the atonement this Easter has helped me to see that this may be so.

Listen to the podcast of this poem from the Bitter Scroll with the Saxon text here. The download for this took me a few minutes but it was worth the effort as I was able to listen to a recent discussion of this 'enculturation of the crucifixion story'.

The Bitter Scroll is a new website about Germanic languages and literature. I have to admit that the American accent might be disconcerting to a British ear. However, the narrator treats his theme with respect and reverence and turns this into an informative discussion on Early English literature and an Easter sermon. His reading in Saxon was very moving. There is a lot of information about the vocabulary and concepts presented in this poem and as I sit listening to the analysis, the poem comes alive. I deeply appreciate the treatment this poem receives in this podcast.

More info here. Hilda and Caedmon: Dream of the Rood
Note: I have split the lines of this text to make it fit in blogger.

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