The Dream Of the Rood

















This poem tells the story of the crucifixion of Christ with a twist because it is told by the Cross!



It is one of the best examples of Anglo Saxon poetry that combines both Christian and pre-christian ideas and imagery. Indeed, parts of the poem are found on the Ruthwell Cross and may have been used as a conversion tool. As such, it undoubtedly had a strong influence on the development of Anglo Saxon Christianity with its emphasis on the heroic nature of Christ. The poem depicts Christ as a heroic warrior, boldly striding up to the cross to do battle with death




The depiction of the cross as a tree reminds us of the pre-Christian World Tree (Irminsul) and the imagery of it talking and remembering the events is suggestive of an animistic world view. Furthermore, the trees triumph over death is celebrated by adorning it with gold and jewels.




The imagery of Christ crucified on this tree also reminds us of the myth of Woden (Odin) hanging from the Irminsul to gain wisdom. This conflation of the Christian story with that of the myth of Odin hanging from the world tree can also be found on the Franks casket.






Anglo Saxon English



Modern English


Hwt! Ic swefna cyst secgan wylle, hwt me gemtte to midre nihte, syan reordberend reste wunedon! uhte me t ic gesawe syllicre treow on lyft ldan, leohte bewunden, beama beorhtost. Eall t beacen ws begoten mid golde. Gimmas stodon fgere t foldan sceatum, swylce r fife wron uppe on am eaxlegespanne.





Behold! I will recount the best of dreams, which came to me in the middle of the night, after speech-bearers turned to rest. It seemed to me that I saw a most wondrous tree, the brightest of rood-trees, raised aloft, encircled by light. That beacon was completely covered with gold; studded with beautiful jewels at its base and with five upon the shoulder-beam.


Beheoldon r engel dryhtnes ealle, fgere urh forgesceaft. Ne ws r huru fracodes gealga, ac hine r beheoldon halige gastas, men ofer moldan, ond eall eos mre gesceaft. Syllic ws se sigebeam, ond ic synnum fah, forwunded mid wommum. Geseah ic wuldres treow, wdum geweorode, wynnum scinan, gegyred mid golde; gimmas hfdon bewrigene weorlice wealdendes treow.





All those made pure through eternal decree, looked upon the Lords angel there. Nor was it a criminal's cross; but holy spirits, men over the earth, and all this famous creation gazed upon it. Wondrous was the tree of victory, whilst I was stained with sin, badly wounded with iniquity. I saw the tree of glory, richly clothed, shining joyfully, adorned with gold. Jewels covered splendidly the Lord's tree.


Hwre ic urh t gold ongytan meahte earmra rgewin, t hit rest ongan swtan on a swiran healfe. Eall ic ws mid sorgum gedrefed, forht ic ws for re fgran gesyhe. Geseah ic t fuse beacen wendan wdum ond bleom; hwilum hit ws mid wtan bestemed, beswyled mid swates gange, hwilum mid since gegyrwed.





But still through that gold I could sense the ancient hostility of the wretched ones, as it had immediately begun to bleed on the right side. I was engulfed in sorrow; fearful because of that beautiful vision. I saw that shining beacon change covering and colour; sometimes it was drenched with blood, soaked with blood's flow, sometimes adorned with treasure.


Hwre ic r licgende lange hwile beheold hreowcearig hlendes treow, ot ic gehyrde t hit hleorode. Ongan a word sprecan wudu selesta: "t ws geara iu, (ic t gyta geman), t ic ws aheawen holtes on ende, astyred of stefne minum. Genaman me r strange feondas, geworhton him r to wfersyne, heton me heora wergas hebban. Bron me r beornas on eaxlum, ot hie me on beorg asetton, gefstnodon me r feondas genoge.



I lay there a long time gazing at the Healers troubled tree, until I heard it call out. The best wood then began to speak words: "That was years gone by, I still remember, that I was hewn down at the forest's edge, cut out of my tree trunk. Strong foes took me there and made me into a display for themselves, ordered me to hoist up their criminals. Warriors carried me on shoulders, until they set me up on a hill; many foes fastened me there.


Geseah ic a frean mancynnes efstan elne mycle t he me wolde on gestigan. r ic a ne dorste ofer dryhtnes word bugan oe berstan, a ic bifian geseah eoran sceatas. Ealle ic mihte feondas gefyllan, hwre ic fste stod. Ongyrede hine a geong hle, (t ws god lmihtig), strang ond stimod. Gestah he on gealgan heanne, modig on manigra gesyhe, a he wolde mancyn lysan. Bifode ic a me se beorn ymbclypte. Ne dorste ic hwre bugan to eoran, feallan to foldan sceatum, ac ic sceolde fste standan. Rod ws ic arred. Ahof ic ricne cyning, heofona hlaford, hyldan me ne dorste.



Then I saw mankind's Lord hasten with great zeal; he wished to climb on me. I dared not contradict the Lords will when I saw the earths surface trembling. I could have slayed all the foes, but I stood firm. The young Healer stripped himself (that was God Almighty) strong and resolute. He stepped up onto the high gallows, brave in the sight of many, where he would set mankind free. I shook when the warrior embraced me. I didnt dare to bow down to the earth, fall to the ground. I was raised as a cross! I raised the King aloft, the Lord of heavens, I dared not bend.


urhdrifan hi me mid deorcan nglum. On me syndon a dolg gesiene, opene inwidhlemmas. Ne dorste ic hira nnigum scean. Bysmeredon hie unc butu tgdere. Eall ic ws mid blode bestemed, begoten of s guman sidan, sian he hfde his gast onsended. Feala ic on am beorge gebiden hbbe wrara wyrda. Geseah ic weruda god earle enian. ystro hfdon bewrigen mid wolcnum wealdendes hrw, scirne sciman, sceadu foreode, wann under wolcnum. Weop eal gesceaft, cwidon cyninges fyll. Crist ws on rode.



Then they pierced me with dark nails. The wounds were visible on me, open vicious wounds. But I didnt dare harm any of them. They mocked the two of us together. I was drenched all over with blood, flowing from the mans side, after he had released his spirit. Many cruel fates I endured on that hill. I saw the God of hosts severely stretched out. A shadowy darkness covered the Lords corpse with clouds, its shining radiance; a darkness crept over it, black under the sky. All creation wept, lamented the fall of the king. Christ on the cross.


Hwere r fuse feorran cwoman to am elinge. Ic t eall beheold. Sare ic ws mid sorgum gedrefed, hnag ic hwre am secgum to handa eamod, elne mycle. Genamon hie r lmihtigne god, ahofon hine of am hefian wite. Forleton me a hilderincas standan steame bedrifenne; eall ic ws mid strlum forwundod. Aledon hie r limwerigne, gestodon him t his lices heafdum, beheoldon hie r heofenes dryhten, ond he hine r hwile reste, mee fter am miclan gewinne.





And then, from afar came the eager ones to the Prince. I beheld it all. I was filled with deep sorrow, yet I bent down to the hands of those men, humbly and with great zeal. Then they took the Almighty God and lifted him from that terrible torment. Those warriors then left me, standing, sprinkled with moisture, punctured all over with tiny arrows. They lay the exhausted Lord down there and stood by his bodys head, watching over the heavens Ruler. And he rested there a while, weary after that great battle.


Ongunnon him a moldern wyrcan beornas on banan gesyhe; curfon hie t of beorhtan stane, gesetton hie ron sigora wealdend. Ongunnon him a sorhleo galan earme on a fentide, a hie woldon eft siian, mee fram am mran eodne, reste he r mte weorode. Hwere we r greotende gode hwile stodon on staole, syan stefn up gewat hilderinca. Hrw colode, fger feorgbold.





And then, before me his slayer, those brave warriors began to build an earth mound, carved out of the brightest of stone, and placed into it the Lord of Victories. When they had done this, they began to sing a dirge, mournful in the evening hour. They then wearily took their leave of the glorious Prince, he rested alone. But we, standing there fixed, wept a good while until the voices of the warriors had faded away. The corpse cooled, fair dwelling of the soul.


a us man fyllan ongan ealle to eoran. t ws egeslic wyrd! Bedealf us man on deopan seae. Hwre me r dryhtnes egnas, freondas gefrunon, ond gyredon me golde ond seolfre. Nu u miht gehyran, hle min se leofa, t ic bealuwara weorc gebiden hbbe, sarra sorga. Is nu sl cumen t me weoria wide ond side menn ofer moldan, ond eall eos mre gesceaft, gebidda him to yssum beacne.





And then a man felled us all to the ground. That was a dreadful fate! One of them buried us in a deep pit. However, the Lords thegns, friends, sought me out and adorned me with gold and silver. Now you might have heard, my beloved hero, of that which I have suffered at the hands of evil doers, painful and grievous this was. But now is the time that I should be revered throughout the world and all men from far and wide should pray to this beacon.


On me bearn godes rowode hwile. Foran ic rymfst nu hlifige under heofenum, ond ic hlan mg ghwylcne anra, ara e him bi egesa to me. Iu ic ws geworden wita heardost, leodum laost, ran ic him lifes weg rihtne gerymde, reordberendum. Hwt, me a geweorode wuldres ealdor ofer holmwudu, heofonrices weard! Swylce swa he his modor eac, Marian sylfe, lmihtig god for ealle menn geweorode ofer eall wifa cynn. Nu ic e hate, hle min se leofa, t u as gesyhe secge mannum, onwreoh wordum t hit is wuldres beam, se e lmihtig god on rowode for mancynnes manegum synnum ond Adomes ealdgewyrhtum. Dea he r byrigde, hwere eft dryhten aras mid his miclan mihte mannum to helpe. He a on heofenas astag. Hider eft funda on ysne middangeard mancynn secan on domdge dryhten sylfa, lmihtig god, ond his englas id, t he onne wile deman, se ah domes geweald, anra gehwylcum swa he him rur her on yssum lnum life geearna.





On me did Gods son suffer for a time. For this, I now tower in glory under the heavens and can heal all those who hold me in awe. In olden days I was made the harshest of punishments, hateful to people, before I showed them, the speech bearers, the true path to life. Behold, the Lord of Glory, heavens guardian, honoured me over the forest trees, just as he, Almighty God, also honoured his mother, Mary herself, for all men, over all womankind. Now I call on you my beloved warriors that you speak of this vision to all mankind, reveal with words that it is the tree of glory on which Almighty God suffered for mankinds many sins and Adams deeds of old. Death he tasted there, but the Lord rose again with his mighty power to help all mankind. Then he ascended into heaven. And he will come again to this middle earth to seek out mankind on judgement day, the Lord himself, Almighty God, and his Angels with him, that he will then judge, he who wields the right to judge, everyone according to what they have earned during this transitory life.


Ne mg r nig unforht wesan for am worde e se wealdend cwy. Frine he for re mnige hwr se man sie, se e for dryhtnes naman deaes wolde biteres onbyrigan, swa he r on am beame dyde. Ac hie onne forhtia, ond fea enca hwt hie to Criste cwean onginnen. Ne earf r onne nig anforht wesan e him r in breostum bere beacna selest, ac urh a rode sceal rice gesecan of eorwege ghwylc sawl, seo e mid wealdende wunian ence."





Nor should anyone be unafraid of the words the ruler will speak. He will ask before the multitudes where is the person willing to taste bitter death for the sake of the Lords name, as he did beforehand on that tree. But they will be afraid and not know what to say to Christ. But there will be no need to be afraid for any of those who bear before them in their hearts the best of signs. But through the cross shall every soul who desires to dwell in the Lord come to the kingdom from the earthly path.


Gebd ic me a to an beame blie mode, elne mycle, r ic ana ws mte werede. Ws modsefa afysed on forwege, feala ealra gebad langunghwila. Is me nu lifes hyht t ic one sigebeam secan mote ana oftor onne ealle men, well weorian. Me is willa to am mycel on mode, ond min mundbyrd is geriht to re rode.





I prayed to the cross with a joyful heart, with great zeal, there where I was alone with little company. My spirit was inspired with longing to seek the path to the next world, that for which it has yearned for so long. It is now my lifes joy that I might seek the victory tree alone more often than others to honour it well. This desire is strong in my soul and my hope of protection is directed to that cross.


Nah ic ricra feala freonda on foldan, ac hie for heonon gewiton of worulde dreamum, sohton him wuldres cyning, lifia nu on heofenum mid heahfdere, wunia on wuldre, ond ic wene me daga gehwylce hwnne me dryhtnes rod, e ic her on eoran r sceawode, on ysson lnan life gefetige ond me onne gebringe r is blis mycel, dream on heofonum, r is dryhtnes folc geseted to symble, r is singal blis, ond me onne asette r ic syan mot wunian on wuldre, well mid am halgum dreames rucan.





I dont have many powerful friends on this earth, for they have passed on from the joys of this world, sought for themselves the king of glory and are living now in heaven with the High Father, dwelling in glory. And I myself long for that day when the Lords cross, which I beheld here on earth, will take me from this transitory life and bring me to where there is great bliss, joy in heaven, where the Lords people are seated at the feast, where there is perpetual bliss, and then place me where I can for evermore dwell in glory with the holy ones in bliss.


Si me dryhten freond, se e her on eoran r rowode on am gealgtreowe for guman synnum. He us onlysde ond us lif forgeaf, heofonlicne ham. Hiht ws geniwad mid bledum ond mid blisse am e r bryne olodan. Se sunu ws sigorfst on am sifate, mihtig ond spedig, a he mid manigeo com, gasta weorode, on godes rice, anwealda lmihtig, englum to blisse ond eallum am halgum am e on heofonum r wunedon on wuldre, a heora wealdend cwom, lmihtig god, r his eel ws.


May the Lord be a friend to me, he who suffered that time on the gallows-tree here on earth for the sins of men. He liberated us and gave us life, a heavenly home. Hope was restored with glory and with joy those who had suffered burning there. The Son was victorious in that journey, mighty and swift, when he came with the hoards, the company of souls, into Gods kingdom, the Almighty Ruler, to the joy of Angels and all the holy ones who dwelt in heaven before, who dwelt in glory, when their Ruler came, Almighty God, there his homeland was.



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