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Dream of the Rood

A medieval testimony of Christ, written as from the perspective of the cross.

1 Lo! I will tell of the best of dreams, Hwæt, ic swefna cyst secgan wylle,
what I dreamed in the middle of the night, hwæt mē gemætte to midre nihte,
after the speech-bearers were in bed. syðþan reordberend reste wunedon.
It seemed to me that I saw a very wondrous
þūhte mē þæt ic gesāwe syllicre trēow
tree

5 lifted into the air, enveloped by light, 5 on lyft lædan lēohte bewunden,

the brightest of trees. That beacon was all bēama beorhtost. Eall þæt bēacen wæs

covered with gold. Gems stood begoten mid golde. Gimmas stōdon

beautiful at the surface of the earth, there fægere æt foldan scēatum, swylce þær fife
were five also wæron
up on the central joint of the cross. All those uppe on þām eaxlgespanne. Behēoldon
fair through eternal decree gazed þær engel dryhtnes ealle,
10 [on] the angel of the Lord. [It] was certainly
10 fægere þurh forðgesceaft. Ne wæs ðær
not a wicked person’s gallows there,
hūru fracodes gealga,
but holy spirits, men over the earth,
ac hine þær behēoldon hālige gāstas,
and all this famous creation gazed on him.
men ofer moldan ond eall þēos mære
Wondrous was that tree of victory, and I gesceaft.
stained with sins
Syllic wæs se sigebēam, ond ic synnum
wounded sorely with defects, I saw the tree fāh,
of glory,
forwunded mid wommum. Geseah ic
15 honoured with garments, shining joyously,
wuldres trēow,
adorned with gold. Gems had
15 wædum geweorðod wynnum scīnan,
splendidly covered the Lord’s tree.
gegyred mid golde; gimmas hæfdon
I was able, however, to perceive through the
gold, bewrigen weorðlīce wealdendes trēow.
the ancient hostility of wretched ones, [that] Hwæðre ic þurh þæt gold ongytan meahte
it first began
earmra ærgewin, þæt hit ærest ongan
20 to bleed on the right side. I was all troubled
with grief, 20 swætan on þā swīðran healfe. Eall ic
wæs mid sorgum gedrēfed,
I was afraid in the presence of that beautiful
sight. I saw that noble beacon
forht ic wæs for þære fægran gesyhðe.
change its coverings and colour; sometimes it Geseah ic þæt fūse bēacen
was drenched with moisture,
wendan wædum ond blēom; hwīlum hit
soaked with the flow of blood, sometimes wæs mid wætan bestēmed,
adorned with treasure.
beswyled mid swātes gange, hwīlum*
Nevertheless, I, lying a long time there, mid since gegyrwed.
25 gazed troubled at the Saviour’s tree, Hwæðre ic þær licgende lange_hwīle
until I heard it speak.
25 behēold hrēowcearig hælendes trēow,
The most excellent tree then began to speak
the words: oð ðæt ic gehyrde þæt hit hlēoðrode.

It was years ago (that, I still remember), Ongan þā word sprecan wudu sēlesta:

that I was cut down from the edge of the ‘Þæt wæs gēara_iū, (ic þæt gyta geman),
forest,
þæt ic wæs āhēawen holtes on ende,
30 removed from my foundation. Strong
enemies seized me there, 30 āstyred of stefne mīnum. Genāman mē
ðær strange fēondas,
they made me into a spectacle for
themselves, commanded me to lift up their geworhton him þær tō wæfersyne, hēton
criminals.
mē heora wergas hebban.
Men carried me there on their shoulders,
until they set me on a hill, Bæron mē þær beornas on eaxlum, oððæt
hīe mē on beorg āsetton,
many enemies secured me there. Then I saw
mankind’s Lord gefæstnodon mē þær fēondas genōge.
Geseah ic þā frean mancynnes
hasten with great zeal, that he wished to
climb upon me. efstan elne micle, þæt hē mē wolde on
35 There, I did not dare break to pieces or bow gestīgan.
down
35 Þær ic þā ne dorste ofer dryhtnes word
against the Lord’s words, when I saw the
surface būgan oððe berstan, þā ic bifian geseah
of the earth tremble. I was able to destroy
eorðan scēatas. Ealle ic mihte
all the enemies, nevertheless, I stood firmly.
fēondas gefyllan, hwæðre* ic fæste stōd.
The young hero stripped himself then (that
was God Almighty), Ongyrede hine þā geong hæleð, (þæt wæs
god ælmihtig),
40 strong and resolute. He ascended onto the
high gallows, 40 strang ond stīðmōd. Gestāh hē on
gealgan hēanne,
brave in the sight of many, there, [since] he
wished to release mankind. mōdig on manigra gesyhðe, þā hē wolde
mancyn lysan.
I trembled when the man embraced me.
However, I dared not bow down to the earth,
Bifode ic þā mē se beorn ymbclypte. Ne
fall to the surface of the earth, but I had to dorste ic hwæðre būgan tō eorðan,
stand fast.
feallan tō foldan scēatum, ac ic sceolde
I was raised [as a] cross. I lifted up the fæste standan.
mighty king,
Rōd wæs ic āræred. Āhōf ic rīcne cyning,
45 the lord of the heavens; I dared not bend
down. 45 heofona hlāford, hyldan mē ne dorste.
They pierced me with dark nails. On me, the Þurhdrifan hī mē mid deorcan næglum.
scars are visible, On mē syndon þā dolg gesīene,
open malicious wounds. I did not dare injure
any of them.
opene inwidhlemmas. Ne dorste ic hira
ænigum sceððan.
They mocked both of us, together. I was all
drenched with blood, Bysmeredon hīe unc būtū ætgædere. Eall
ic wæs mid blōde bestēmed,
covered from the man’s side, after he had
sent forth his spirit. begoten of þæs guman sīdan, siððan hē
hæfde his gāst onsended.
50 I endured many cruel events
50 ‘Feala ic on þām beorge gebiden
on that hill. I saw the Lord of Hosts hæbbe
severely stretched out. Darkness wrāðra wyrda. Geseah ic weruda god
had covered the bright radiance þearle þenian. Þystro hæfdon
of the Lord’s corpse with clouds, a shadow
bewrigen mid wolcnum wealdendes
went forth,
hræw,
55 dark under the sky. All of creation wept,
scīrne scīman, sceadu forð ēode,
they lamented the king’s death. Christ was on
the cross. 55 wann under wolcnum. Wēop eal
gesceaft,
Nevertheless, eager ones came there from
afar cwīðdon cyninges fyll. Crīst wæs on rōde.
to the prince. I beheld all that. Hwæðere þær fūse feorran cwōman
Grievously I was afflicted with sorrow, yet I tō þām æðelinge. Ic þæt eall behēold.
bowed to the hands of the men,
Sāre ic wæs sorgum gedrēfed, hnāg ic
60 humble, with great zeal. There they took
God Almighty, hwæðre þām secgum tō handa,

they lifted him up out of the oppressive 60 ēaðmōd elne mycle. Genāmon hīe þær
torment. The warriors abandoned me ælmihtigne god,

to stand, covered with moisture; I was āhōfon hine of ðām hefian wīte. Forlēton
wounded very badly with arrows. mē þā hilderincas
They laid him down there, weary-limbed; standan stēame bedrifenne; eall ic wæs
they positioned themselves at his body’s head, mid strælum forwundod.
there they gazed at the Lord of heaven, and
he, rested himself there for a while,
Ālēdon hīe þær limwērigne, gestōdon him
æt his līces hēafdum,
65 weary after the great battle. The men began
to make a sepulcher for him behēoldon hīe þær heofenes dryhten, ond
hē hine þær hwīle reste,
in the sight of his slayer; they carved it out of
bright stone; 65 mēðe æfter ðām miclan gewinne.
Ongunnon him þā moldern wyrcan
they put him, the Lord of Victories, therein.
The wretched began to sing him a song of beornas on banan gesyhðe; curfon hīe ðæt
sorrow of beorhtan stāne,
in the evening-time, then they wanted to go gesetton hīe ðæron sigora wealdend.
again, Ongunnon him þā sorhlēoð galan
wearily from the glorious prince. He rested
earme on þā æfentīde, þā hīe woldon eft
there with little company.
sīðian,
70 Nevertheless, we stood in a fixed position,
mēðe fram þām mæran þēodne. Reste hē
weeping for a good while, after the voice of ðær mæte weorode.
the warriors
70 Hwæðere wē ðær grēotende gōde
went up. The corpse cooled, hwīle
beautiful dwelling of the soul. Then they stōdon on staðole, syððan stefn up gewāt
began to cut us all
hilderinca. Hræw cōlode,
down to the earth. That was a dreadful event!
fæger feorgbold. Þā ūs man fyllan ongan
75 We were buried in a deep pit. However, the
Lord’s disciples,
ealle tō eorðan. Þæt wæs egeslic wyrd!
friends, discovered me there,
75 Bedealf ūs man on dēopan sēaþe.
and adorned me [with] gold and silver. Hwæðre mē þær dryhtnes þegnas,

Now you can hear, my beloved hero, frēondas gefrūnon,

what work of the evildoers that I have ond gyredon mē golde ond seolfre.
experienced,
‘Nū ðū miht gehyran, hæleð mīn se lēofa,
80 the painful grief. The time is now come
þæt ic bealuwara weorc gebiden hæbbe,
that men over the earth and all this illustrious
creation
80 sārra sorga. Is nū sæl cumen
far and wide honour me,
þæt mē weorðiað wīde_on_sīde
they pray to this sign. On me, God’s son
menn ofer moldan, ond eall þēos mære
suffered a time. Therefore, now I rise up gesceaft,

85 glorious under the heavens, and I am able to gebiddaþ him tō þyssum bēacne. On mē
heal bearn godes
each one of those who hold me in awe. þrōwode hwīle. Forþan ic þrymfæst nū
Formerly, I was the most fierce of torments, 85 hlīfige under heofenum, ond ic hælan
mæg
most hateful to people, before I opened the
right
æghwylcne ānra, þāra þe him bið egesa tō
path of life to them, the speech-bearers. mē.

90 Lo, the prince of glory, the guardian of the Iū ic wæs geworden wīta heardost,
kingdom of the heavens,
lēodum lāðost, ær þan ic him līfes weg
honoured me over all the trees of the forest!
rihtne gerymde, reordberendum.
Just as he, Almighty God, before all men,
90 Hwæt, mē þā geweorðode wuldres
honoured his mother also, Mary herself, ealdor
over all womankind. ofer holtwudu, heofonrīces weard!
95 Now I command you, my beloved warrior,
Swylce swā hē his mōdor ēac, Marīan
that you tell this vision to men, sylfe,

reveal in words that it is the tree of glory, ælmihtig god for ealle menn

on which Almighty God suffered geweorðode ofer eall wīfa cynn.

for mankind’s many sins 95 ‘Nu ic þē hāte, hæleð mīn se lēofa,

100 and Adam’s deeds of old, þæt ðū þās gesyhðe secge mannum,
He tasted death there. However, the Lord onwrēoh wordum þæt hit is wuldres
arose again bēam,
to help men with his great power.
se ðe ælmihtig god on þrōwode
Then he ascended into the heavens. Hither
again, the Lord, Himself, for mancynnes manegum synnum

will set out into this world 100 ond Adomes ealdgewyrhtum.

105 to seek mankind on the day of judgement, Dēað hē þær byrigde, hwæðere eft
dryhten ārās
Almighty God and His angels with Him, mid his miclan mihte mannum tō helpe.
since He who has power of judgement, He Hē ðā on heofanas āstāg. Hider eft fundaþ
then will sentence
on þysne middangeard mancynn sēcan
each one, just as he shall have earned
105 on dōmdæge dryhten sylfa,
for himself here in this temporary life.

110 Nor can there be any unafraid there ælmihtig god, ond his englas mid,

because of the words which the Lord shall þæt hē þonne wile dēman, se āh dōmes
say: geweald,

He shall ask before the multitude, where the ānra gehwylcum swā hē him ærur hēr
man might be,
on þyssum lænum līfe geearnaþ.
who for the name of the Lord would taste
110 Ne mæg þær ænig unforht wesan
bitter death, as He did before on the cross.
for þām worde þe se wealdend cwyð.
115 But then they fear, and few think of
Frīneð hē for þære mænige hwær se man
what to begin to say to Christ.
sīe,
None needs to be afraid [of]
se ðe for dryhtnes naman dēaðes wolde
of [he] who already bears on his breast the
best of signs, biteres onbyrigan, swā hē ær on ðām
bēame dyde.
but through the cross, each soul must seek
115 Ac hīe þonne forhtiað, ond fēa
120 the kingdom from the earthly way, þencað
those who intend to dwell with the Lord. hwæt hīe to Crīste cweðan onginnen.
Then I prayed to the cross with friendly spirit,
Ne þearf ðær þonne ænig anforht wesan
with great zeal, where I was alone
þe him ær in breostum bereð bēacna
with little company. My mind was sēlest,

125 impelled on the way hence, it experienced ac ðurh ðā rōde sceal rīce gesēcan
very many
times of longing. Now this is my life’s joyous 120 of eorðwege æghwylc sāwl,
expectation
sēo þe mid wealdende wunian þenceð."
that I may seek the tree of victory
Gebæd ic mē þā to þām bēame blīðe
and honour [it] well
mōde,
most often of all men. The desire for that is
elne mycle, þær ic āna wæs
130 great in my heart, and my patronage is
mæte werede. Wæs mōdsefa
directed to the cross. I do not have many
125 āfysed on forðwege, feala ealra gebād
powerful friends on earth, since they departed
away hence langunghwīla. Is mē nū līfes hyht

from the joys of the world, they sought the þæt ic þone sigebēam sēcan mōte
King of Glory;
āna oftor þonne ealle men,
now they live in the heavens with God the
Father. well weorþian. Mē is willa tō ðām
135 They dwell in glory, and each day
130 mycel on mōde, ond mīn mundbyrd
I look forward to the time when the cross of is
the Lord
geriht tō þære rōde. Nāh ic rīcra feala
that I previously saw here on the earth,
frēonda on foldan, ac hīe forð heonon
in this temporary life, will fetch me,
gewiton of worulde drēamum, sōhton
and will then bring me to where great bliss is, him* wuldres cyning,
140 joy in the heavens, where the Lord’s lifiaþ nū on heofenum mid hēahfædere,
people are
135 wuniaþ on wuldre, ond ic wēne_mē
seated at the feast, where perpetual joy is;

then it may set me, where afterwards I might


daga gehwylce hwænne mē dryhtnes rōd,

dwell in glory, with the saints þe ic hēr on eorðan ær scēawode,

to enjoy bliss well. May the Lord be a friend on þysson lænan līfe gefetige
to me,
145 who suffered here on earth before ond mē þonne gebringe þær is blis mycel,
on the gallows-tree for men’s sins; 140 drēam on heofonum, þær is dryhtnes
folc
he redeemed us and gave us life,
geseted tō symle, þær is singāl blis,
a heavenly home. Joy was restored

with blessings and with bliss, for those who ond mē þonne āsette þær ic syððan mōt
endured the fire there.
wunian on wuldre, well mid þām hālgum
150 The Son was triumphant on that
expedition, drēames brūcan. Sī mē dryhten frēond,

mighty and successful, when he came with 145 se ðe hēr on eorðan ær þrōwode
the multitude,
on þām gealgtrēowe for guman synnum.
the host of souls, into God’s kingdom,
Hē ūs onlysde ond ūs līf forgeaf,
the Lord Almighty, to the delight of the
angels, heofonlicne hām. Hiht wæs genīwad
and of all the saints, who in the heavens
before
mid blēdum ond mid blisse þām þe þær
bryne þolodan.
155 dwelled in glory, when their Ruler, the
Almighty 150 Se sunu wæs sigorfæst on þām
siðfate,
God came, where his homeland was.
mihtig ond spēdig, þā hē mid manigeo
cōm,

gāsta weorode, on godes rīce,

anwealda ælmihtig, englum tō blisse

ond eallum ðām hālgum þām þe on


heofonum ær

155 wunedon on wuldre, þā heora


wealdend cwōm,

ælmihtig god, þær his ēðel wæs.