The Dream of the Rood

I read this passage from a 10th century poem entitled, “The Dream of the Rood,” just a few weeks before the Lord granted me repentance and conversion in 1998. The poem recounts the author’s dream of an account of the crucifixion of Christ from the perspective of the “rood” (the cross of Christ). It has always made my heart sigh, mount, and, finally, worship. I will share a few excepts from the poem, who’s author is unknown, this week. This first passage causes me to mourn, for although I know ‘how the story ends,’ I grieve at the price that was paid for my debt.

“It was long ago—I remember it still—that I was hewn down at the wood’s edge, taken from my stump. Strong foes seized me there, hewed me to the shape they wished to see, commanded me to lift their criminals. Men carried me on their shoulders, then set me on a hill; foes fastened me there. Then I saw the Lord of mankind hasten with a stout heart, for he would climb upon me. I dared not bow or break against God’s word when I saw earth’s surface tremble. I might have felled all foes, but I stood fast. Then the young hero stripped himself—that was God Almighty—strong and stouthearted. He climbed on the high gallows, bold in the sight of many, when he would free mankind. I trembled when the Warrior embraced me, yet I dared not bow to earth, fall to the ground’s surface; but I must stand fast. I was raised up, a cross; I lifted up the Mighty King, Lord of the Heavens: I dared not bend. They pierced me with dark nails: the wounds are seen on me, open gashes of hatred. Nor did I dare harm any of them. They mocked us both together. I was all wet with blood, drenched from the side of that Man after he had sent forth his spirit. I had endured many bitter happenings on that hill. I saw the God of Hosts cruelly racked. The shades of night had covered the Ruler’s body with their mists, the bright splendor. Shadow came forth, dark beneath the clouds. All creation wept, bewailed the King’s fall; Christ was on the Cross.”

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One thought on “The Dream of the Rood”

  1. I read this work as well and another piece of British Literature that is astounding and perspective if not life altering is “Love” by George Herbert. Actually I am writing a paper on both of these works right now. “Love” brought tears to my eyes and obviously touched me since I decided to write my paper on these two works. I just can’t even express the magnitude of this poem.

    LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
    Guilty of dust and sin.
    But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
    From my first entrance in,
    Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
    If I lack’d anything.

    ‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
    Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
    ‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
    I cannot look on Thee.’
    Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
    ‘Who made the eyes but I?’

    ‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
    Go where it doth deserve.’
    ‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
    ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
    ‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
    So I did sit and eat.

    -George Herbert

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