The Dream of the Rood


The Dream of the Rood is an Old Anglo Saxon poem dating back as far as the 7th century. The Author is uncertain, but many scholars have attributed the poem to either Cædmon or CyneWulf. The current text is from EH Hickey's 1882 Translation.

The Dream of the Rood

Lo, I will tell of the best of dreams, which I dream'd at deep midnight,
When men were lying at rest; meseem'd I saw the blessed Tree,
The loveliest Tree, the Tree most good, uplift and girt with light,
And flooded with gold; and precious gems at its foot were fair to see,
And five bright stones on the shoulder-span shone out full gloriously.

All the fair angels of the Lord gazing beheld it there;
'Twas not the rood of the sin-steept man, the cross of the ill-doer,
But holy spirits lookt thereon, and men of mortal breath,
And all this mighty universe; and the rood of victory
Was blessed, and I was deep-defil'd, sin-wounded unto death.
Bedeckt with royal weeds I saw it shine full splendidly,
And jewels of uncounted cost blaz'd on the wondrous Tree.

Yet, thro' the sheen of gold I saw the mourners' bitter woe,
The blood ooz'd out on the right side first for the strife of long ago:
Stricken and smitten with grief was I, afraid for that lovely sight:
I saw the beacon set up on high, rich-rob'd in royal blee,
Anon all wet, defil'd with blood, anon with gold most bright:
Long, while I lay, laden with grief, beheld the Saviour's Tree,
Until' I heard the Blessed speak; these words it spake to me.

"It was long ago, I mind it yet, I was hewn in the heart of the wood,
"I was cut away from my standing-place; the strong foes took me there,
"And brought me for a sight and show, ordain'd me when I stood
"To lift their evil-doers up, their law-breakers to bear,

"They bare me on their shoulders strong, upon a hill they set,
"And made me fast, a many foes; then saw I mankind's Lord
"With mighty courage hasten Him to mount on me, and yet
"Tho' all earth shook, I durst not bend or break without His word;
"Firm must I stand, nor fall and crash the gazing foes abhorr'd.

"Then the young Hero made Him dight, the Mighty God was He,
"Steadfast and very stout of heart, mounted the shameful tree;
"Strong-soul'd, in sight of many there, mankind He fain would free.
"I trembled sore when He claspt me round, yet durst not bow or bend,
"I must not fall upon the earth, but stand fast to the end.

"A rood I stood, and lifted up the great King, Lord of Heaven;
"I durst not stoop; they pierced me thro' with dark nails sharply driven,
"The wounds are plain to see here yet, the open wounds that yawn,
"Yet nothing nowise durst I do of scathe to anyone.
"They put us both to shame, us twain; I was bedrenoht in blood
"Shed from the speartorn heart of Him, when His Soul was gone to God.

"Oh, grievous was my cruel fate on the hillside that day;
"I saw the mighty God of Hosts stretcht out in dreadful wise;
"The darkness veil'd its Maker's corpse with clouds, the shades did weigh
"The bright light down with evil weight all wan beneath the skies.

"Then did the whole creation weep and the King's death bemoan.
"Christ was upon the rood. Then came where He did hang alone
"Those noble ones; I saw it all; afflicted sore was I,
"Yet bow'd me to their faithful hands humbly with courage high.

"They lifted up the Almighty God after that torment dread;
"They left me standing, drencht with gore, with arrows sore wounded;
"They laid down the limb-weary One, and stood about His head,
"Gaz'd on Heaven's Lord who, weary now after the Mighty fight,
"Rested Him there a little while. Then, in the murderers' sight,
"The men began to make His tomb, of white stone carv'd it fair,
"And laid the Lord of Victory within the sepulchre.
"Then sang they sorrow-songs for Him, mourners at eventide,
"When, weary, they were fain to go from the great Prince's side:
"There did the mighty Lord of Hosts with never a host abide.

"Yet for a space we stood there still, weeping full bitterly;
"The sound of the warrior's voice went up; chill waxt that fair Body;
"Then did they fell us to the earth: Oh, awsome fate to dree!

"In the deep pit they buried us; yet the Lord's servants, they
"Who are His friends, have joy'd in me, and made me fair to-day,
"With silver and with gold adorn'd, and beautiful, array.

"Now may'st thou hear the tale, O man. O life and dear, the tale
"Of that sore sorrow I have borne, sore sorrow and bitter bale;
"But the time is come that, far and wide, they honour me alway,
"Men, and the whole great universe, and at this beacon pray.
"On me God's Son His anguish took, so, glorious, towering free,
"I stand 'neath heaven, a healing made for whoso honoureth me.
"Once I was sorest pine and shame, sharpest and bitterest then
"Ere I had open'd life's true way unto the sons of men."