Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Dream of the Rood

The Dream of the Rood

Translation by Richard Hamer (1970)

Hear while I tell about the best of dreams Which came to me the middle of one night While humankind were sleeping in their beds. It was as though I saw a wondrous tree
Towering in the sky suffused with light, Brightest of beams; and all that beacon was Covered with gold. The corners of the earth Gleamed with fair jewels, just as there were five Upon the cross-beam. Many bands of angels,
Fair throughout all eternity, looked on. No felon's gallows that, but holy spirits, Mankind, and all this marvellous creation, Gazed on the glorious tree of victory. And I with sins was stained, wounded with guilt.
I saw the tree of glory brightly shine In gorgeous clothing, all bedecked with gold. The Ruler's tree was worthily adorned With gems; yet I could see beyond that gold The ancient strife of wretched men, when first
Upon its right side it began to bleed. I was all moved with sorrows, and afraid At the fair sight. I saw that lively beacon Changing its clothes and hues; sometimes it was Bedewed with blood and drenched with flowing gore,
At other times it was bedecked with treasure. So I lay watching there the Saviour's tree, Grieving in spirit for a long, long while, Until I heard it utter sounds, the best Of woods began to speak these words to me:
"It was long past - I still remember it - That I was cut down at the copse's end, Moved from my root. Strong enemies there took me, Told me to hold aloft their criminals, Made me a spectacle. Men carried me
Upon their shoulders, set me on a hill, A host of enemies there fastened me. And then I saw the Lord of all mankind Hasten with eager zeal that He might mount Upon me. I durst not against God's word
Bend down or break, when I saw tremble all The surface of the earth. Although I might Have struck down all the foes, yet stood I fast. (OE 39) Then the young hero (who was God almighty) Got ready, resolute and strong in heart.
He climbed onto the lofty gallows-tree, Bold in the sight of many watching men, When He intended to redeem mankind. I trembled as the warrior embraced me. But still I dared not bend down to the earth,
Fall to the ground. Upright I had to stand. (OE 44) A rood I was raised up; and I held high The noble King, the Lord of heaven above. I dared not stoop. They pierced me with dark nails; The scars can still be clearly seen on me,
The open wounds of malice. yet might I Not harm them. They reviled us both together. I was made wet all over with the blood Which poured out from his side, after He had Sent forth His spirit. And I underwent
Full many a dire experience on that hill. I saw the God of hosts stretched grimly out. Darkness covered the Ruler's corpse with clouds His shining beauty; shadows passed across, Black in the darkness. All creation wept,
Bewailed the King's death; Christ was on the cross. (OE 57) And yet I saw men coming from afar, Hastening to the Prince. I watched it all. With sorrows I was grievously oppressed, Yet willingly I bent to those men's hands,
Humbly. They took up there Almighty God, And from the heavy torment lifted Him. The soldiers left me standing drenched with moisture, Wounded all over with the metal points. They laid Him down limb-weary; then they stood
Beside the corpse's head, there they beheld The Lord of heaven, and He rested there A while, tired after the great agony. The men then made a sepulchre for Him In sight of me. They carved it of bright stone,
And set therein the Lord of victories. Next, wretched in the eveningtide, they sang A dirge for Him; and when they went away, Weary from that great Prince, He stayed alone.
(OE 70) Yet we remained there weeping in our places
A good long time after the warriors' voices Had passed away from us. The corpse grew cold, The fair abode of life. Then men began To cut us down. That was a dreadful fate. In a deep pit they buried us. But friends
And servants of the Lord learnt where I was, And decorated me with gold and silver. (OE 78) Now you may understand, dear warrior, That I have suffered deeds of wicked men And grievous sorrows. Now the time has come
That far and wide on earth men honour me, And all this great and glorious creation, And to this beacon offers prayers. On me The Son of God once suffered; therefore now I tower mighty underneath the heavens,
And I may heal all those in awe of me. Once I became the cruellest of tortures, Most hateful to all nations, till the time I opened the right way of life for men. (OE 90) So then the prince of glory honoured me,
And heaven's King exalted me above All other trees, just as Almighty God Raised up His mother Mary for all men Above all other women in the world. (OE 95) Now, my dear warrior, I order you
That you reveal this vision to mankind, Declare in words this is the tree of glory On which Almighty God once suffered torments For mankind's many sins, and for the deeds Of Adam long ago. He tasted death
Thereon; and yet the Lord arose again By his great might to come to human aid. He rose to heaven. And the Lord Himself, Almighty God and all His angels with Him, Will come onto this earth again to seek
Mankind on Doomsday, when the final Judge Will give His verdict upon every man, What in this fleeting life he shall have earned. (OE 110)Nor then may any man be without fear About the words the Lord shall say to him.
Before all He shall ask where that man is Who for God's name would suffer bitter death As formerly He did upon the cross. Then they will be afraid, and few will know What they may say to Christ. But there need none
Be fearful if he bears upon his breast The best of tokens. Through the cross each soul Nay journey to the heavens from this earth, Who with the Ruler thinks to go and dwell." (OE 122)I prayed then to the cross with joyous heart
And eagerness, where I was all alone, Companionless; my spirit was inspired With keenness for departure; and I spent Much time in longing. Now my hope of life Is that I may approach the tree of triumph
Alone more often than all other men, Honour it well; my wish for that is great Within my heart, and my hope for support Is turned towards the cross. I have on earth Not many noble friends, but they have gone
Hence from earth's joys and sought the King of glory. With the High father now they live in heaven And dwell in glory; and I wait each day For when the cross of God, which here on earth I formerly beheld, may fetch me from
This transitory life and carry me To where there is great bliss and joy in heaven, Where the Lord's host is seated at the feast, And it shall set me where I afterwards may dwell in glory, live in lasting bliss
Among the saints. May God be friend to me, He who once suffered on the gallows tree On earth here for men's sins. Us He redeemed And granted us our life and heavenly home. Hope was renewed with glory and with bliss
For those who suffered burning fires in hell. (OE 150)The Son was mighty on that expedition, Successful and victorious; and when The one Almighty Ruler brought with Him A multitude of spirits to God's kingdom,
To bliss among the angels and the souls Of all who dwelt already in the heavens In glory, then Almighty God had come, The Ruler entered into His own land. 
Translation by Richard Hamer

The Dream of the Rood

Listen, the best of dreams    let me tell you
that I met with     near midnight
when the spear-bearers    were sleeping.
I thought I saw    a sparkling tree
lifted on high,    laden with light,
the brightest of trees.    All the beacon was
gilded with gold;    gems gripped it
gleaming across all earth,    and five of them
were on the cross-beam.    I saw an angel chorus,
beautiful creation;    no cruel gallows this:
holy spirits    beheld it there,
men throughout the world    and this wondrous creation.

Sublime, the tree was,    and I was foul with sin,
wounded and filthy.    I saw the wondrous tree
become more beautiful,    bound with streamers,
wound with gold;    gems gathered
nobly covering    the King's tree.
But through the gold    I could glimpse,
though buried by sinfulness,    that it began
to bleed on its right side.    I was racked with sorrow,
afraid before that fair sight;    I saw that fine beacon
change its colours;    it was moisture coated,
furled in flows of blood,    then folded in treasure.

So I lay there    a long while
sorrowfully staring at    the sacred tree,
until I heard    how it spoke;
the celestial wood    was saying these words:

"It was years ago,    or so I remember,
that I was torn    from the trees' edge,
ripped from my root.    Strong enemies gripped me,
made me a spectacle,    swung their criminals from me;
I carried men on my crossbeam    until I was fixed on a crag;
many enemies set me there.    I saw mankind's Lord
walk boldly, quickly,    eager to climb up.
There I could not,    against the Creator's will,
quiver or fall,    though I saw quake
the earth's surface.    I was able
to slaughter all the enemies,    but I stood firm.
The young man, Heaven's King,    cast off his clothes,
strong and firm spirited;    he stood on the gallows
bravely, beheld by many,    to break mankind free.
I trembled as the man embraced me;    I dared not topple to earth,
fall to the ground;    I had to stand fast.
As a cross I was raised,    carrying the mighty king,
heaven's lord.    I could not lean away.
They drove dark nails into me;    the dreadful cuts are still seen,
open, malicious wounds;    I dared not harm one of them.
They insulted us both together;    I was all besmeared with blood
from the man's side    once he sent forth his spirit.
On that hillside     I had to live through
many loathsome fates;    I saw the Lord of Hosts
terribly wracked;    darkness rolled over,
covering with clouds    the Creator's sky;
shadow swallowed    the shining light,
lowering darkness.    All earth lamented,
cried out the King's fall;    Christ was on the Cross.
But then friends    came from far
to the prince;    I perceived it all.
I was torn sorely by sorrows,    but lay down, submitting
with humble spirit.    They called on their high God,
lifted up their tormented burden;    they left me there,
standing stained with blood;    nails stabbed me.

"He had laid down his tired limbs,     they stood by his lordly head;
they gazed at heaven's lord,    and he rested there a while
weary after his great struggle.    They began to work on a tomb
carving it from the stone    in the sight of his slayer.
They set the mighty Lord inside    and began to lament,
wretched as dusk fell,    that they must depart again,
weary, from the renowned lord;    he remained, alone.
We crosses waited there    a long while
on our foundations;    the voice fell still
in the man;    the corpse grew cold,
the beautiful body.    Then men broke us trees
all to the earth;    awful fate!
We were thrown in a deep pit    but the Lord's thanes,
his friends, found us    
and graced me    with gold and silver."

"Now you may hear,    my beloved man,
how wicked men    wore at me
with sore sorrows.    The time has now come
when I will be honoured    far and wide;
men across earth    and all this glorious creation
came to this cross.    On me the King's son
suffered a while;    so I am now worshipped,
towering under heaven,    and I can heal
everyone    in awe of me.
Before, I was given    the hardest blame,
loathed by all,    until I life's way
could clear    for mankind.
So I am honoured    by the holy Lord,
heaven's guardian,    over all great trees,
just as his mother,    Mary herself,
all men's    almighty God
honours above    all womankind."

"Now I bid you,    beloved man,
to voice to the world    this vision,
reveal in words    that this is the wondrous tree
on which the Saviour    suffered
for mankind's    many sins
and Adam's    first act.
He tasted death;    but directly arose
through his great might    to help mankind
on Doomsday.    The Dread Lord himself,
Almighty God    with his angels
Will then judge,    wielding all judgement's power,
each one    according to how
he deserved    in this drifting life.
None may be    boldly unafraid
of the words    the Lord will speak:
he will ask the many there    if each man
dare, for his name,    know death's
bitter taste    as he did on the tree.
They will be afraid then,    and have few thoughts
of what they could    say to Christ.
None there    need fear
if they bear in their breast    the holy beacon;
through that cross    heaven's kingdom
each soul    will seek from earth
that is willing    to worship the Lord."

Then I bowed before the tree    with blissful spirit,
all eagerly,    there alone
without company.    I was keen
to depart this life    and spent many days
in longing.    It is now my life's joy
that I might seek    that sacred tree
more often    than all other men
to do it honour.    I desire that
much in my spirit,    and my protection is
the cross's rule.    I have remaining
few friends on earth,    but they have gone forth
careless of earth's joys    to find the wondrous King;
they live now in heaven    with the High Father
thinking on wonder;    and I wish for
that day    when the dreamed-of cross
that I saw    stand before me on earth
will fetch me    from this feeble life
and bring me    to where there is great bliss,
joy in heaven,    to join the Lord's people
always sitting    in unceasing bliss.
I will sit    where afterwards
I'll live in glory,    amidst good men,
enjoying joy.    The Just Lord is my friend
that endured before    here on earth
on the cross    for mankind's sins;
he redeemed us    and restored our life,
and our heavenly home.    Hope was renewed
with glory and bliss    for those who had endured burning.
The Son was victorious    on this venture,
mighty and swift.    When he came with many
men's spirits    to the sanctuary of God,
the Almighty Ruler,    the angels rejoiced
with all the saints    that had sat in heaven before,
living in glory,    that God was come,
heaven's king,    to where his homeland was.

Translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Mark Leech