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UTK ENGLISH 513 - The Dream of the Rood

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The Dream of the Rood Listen! I will speak of the sweetest dream,what came to me in the middle of the night,when speech-bearers slept in their rest.It seemed that I saw a most wondrous treeraised on high, circled round with light, 5the brightest of beams. All that beacon wascovered in gold; gems stoodfair at the earth’s corners, and five there wereup on the cross-beam. All creation, eternally fair,beheld the Lord’s angel there;1 that was no shameful lynching tree, 10but holy spirits beheld him there,men over the earth and all this glorious creation. Wondrous was the victory-tree, and I was fouled by sins,wounded with guilt; I saw the tree of gloryhonored in garments, shining with joys, 15bedecked with gold; gems hadcovered worthily the Creator’s tree.And yet beneath that gold I began to seean old wretched struggle, when it first beganto bleed on the right side. I was all beset with sorrows, 20fearful for that fair vision; I saw that eager beaconchange garments and colors – now it was drenched,stained with blood, now bedecked with treasure. And yet, lying there a long while,I beheld in sorrow the Savior’s tree, 25until I heard it utter a sound;that best of woods began to speak words:“It was so long ago – I remember it still —that I was felled from the forest’s edge,ripped up from my roots. Strong enemies seized me there, 30made me their spectacle, made me bear their criminals;they bore me on their shoulders and then set me on a hill,enemies enough fixed me fast. Then I saw the Lord of mankindhasten eagerly, when he wanted to ascend onto me.There I dared not bow down or break, 35 1 This is the sense of the OE lines; the ‘angel of the Lord’ is presumably the Cross itself,God’s messenger to earth.22against the Lord’s word, when I sawthe ends of the earth tremble. Easily I mighthave felled all those enemies, and yet I stood fast.Then the young hero made ready — that was God almighty —strong and resolute; he ascended on the high gallows, 40brave in the sight of many, when he wanted to ransom mankind.I trembled when he embraced me, but I dared not bow to the ground,or fall to the earth’s corners – I had to stand fast.I was reared as a cross: I raised up the mighty King,the Lord of heaven; I dared not lie down. 45They drove dark nails through me; the scars are still visible,open wounds of hate; I dared not harm any of them.They mocked us both together; I was all drenched with bloodflowing from that man’s side after he had sent forth his spirit. Much have I endured on that hill 50of hostile fates: I saw the God of hostscruelly stretched out. Darkness had coveredwith its clouds the Ruler’s corpse,that shining radiance. Shadows spreadgrey under the clouds; all creation wept, 55mourned the King’s fall: Christ on the cross.And yet from afar eager ones cameto that noble one; I watched it all.I was all beset with sorrow, yet I sank into their hands,humbly, eagerly. There they took almighty God, 60lifted him from his heavy torment; the warriors then left mestanding drenched in blood, all shot through with arrows.They laid him down, bone-weary, and stood by his body’s head;they watched the Lord of heaven there, who rested a while,weary from his mighty battle. They began to build a tomb for him 65in the sight of his slayer; they carved it from bright stone,and set within the Lord of victories. They began to sing a dirge for him,wretched at evening, when they wished to travel hence,weary, from the glorious Lord – he rested there with little company.2And as we stood there, weeping, a long while 70fixed in our station, the song ascendedfrom those warriors. The corpse grew cold,the fair life-house. Then they began to fell us 2 i.e., utterly alone.33all to the earth – a terrible fate!They threw us in a deep pit, yet the Lord’s thanes, 75friends sought me out …adorned me with gold and silver.3 Now you might hear, my dear hero,that I have endured the work of evil-doers,harsh sorrows. Now the time has come 80that far and wide they will honor me,men over the earth and all this glorious creation,and pray to this sign. On me the Son of Godsuffered for a time; and so, glorious nowI rise up under the heavens, and am able to heal 85each of those who is in awe of me.Once I was made into the worst of torments,most hateful to all people, before I openedthe true way of life for speech-bearers.Listen! the King of glory, Guardian of heaven’s kingdom 90honored me over all the trees of the forest,just as he has also, almighty God, honoredhis mother, Mary herself,above all womankind for the sake of all men. Now I bid you, my beloved hero, 95that you reveal this vision to men,tell them in words that it is the tree of gloryon which almighty God sufferedfor mankind’s many sinsand Adam’s ancient deeds. 100Death He tasted there, yet the Lord rose againwith his great might to help mankind.He ascended into heaven. He will come againto this middle-earth to seek mankind.on doomsday, almighty God, 105the Lord himself and his angels with him,and he will judge — he has the power of judgment —each one of them as they have earned 3 There is no gap in the manuscript here, but something is obviously missing – the storyof the Finding of the True Cross, told (among other places) in the Old English poemElene. The Cross is buried, hidden, forgotten, then recovered by Helen, mother of theemperor Constantine; its authenticity is established and it becomes an object ofveneration and sign of victory.44beforehand here in this loaned life.No one there may be unafraid 110at the words which the Ruler will speak:he will ask before the multitude where the man might bewho for the Lord’s name would tastebitter death, as he has done on that tree.But they will tremble, and little think 115what they might even begin to say to Christ.But no one there need be very afraidwho has borne in his breast the best of beacons;but through the cross we shall seek the kingdom,every soul from this earthly way, 120whoever thinks to rest with the Ruler.” Then I prayed to the tree with a happy heart,eagerly, there where I was alonewith little company. My spirit longedfor the journey forth; it has felt 125so much of longing. It is now my life’s hopethat I might seek the tree of victoryalone, more often than all men,and honor it well. I wish for thatwith all my heart, and my hope of protection is 130fixed on the cross. I have few wealthy friendson earth; but they all have gone


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