A Translation of The Dream of the Rood

Coming from my archives and appropriately enough for the season on this Spy Wednesday, the following, which I did in support of some of the scholarly work I was doing back when I still thought I might be able to be a professor when I grew up. (Seriously, I did the translation so I could write a conference paper–which I presented as a PhD student in 2008.) Use it in good health, and note that any errors are wholly my own.

Indeed, the best of dreams I intend to tell
what I dreamt at midnight,
after voice-bearers went to rest.

One source…
The Ruthwell Cross by JThomas is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

It seemed to me that I saw a most wonderful tree
lifted on high, enwrapped in light,
brightest of beams. That beacon was all
covered with gold; gems stood
fair at the corners of the earth; and five were there
up on that shoulder-span. All beheld there the angel of the Lord,
fair through the fore-ordained. Indeed there was no gallows of a felon.
But holy spirits there beheld him,
men upon the earth and all this great creation.

Wonderful was the wood of victory, and I stained by sins,
badly wounded with sins. I saw the wood of glory,
honored in clothes, to shine pleasantly,
adorned with gold; gems had
covered worthily the tree of the forest.
Yet through that gold I was able to perceive
the former struggle of wretched ones, when that it first began
to bleed on the right side. I was troubled with all sorrows.
I was afraid for that fair vision. I beheld that eager beacon
to change in clothes and colors; at times it was with wetness moistened,
drenched with the flow of blood, at other times adorned with treasure.
Yet I laid there a long while
beheld sorrowful the Savior’s tree,
until I heard that it spoke.
The best wood then began to speak a word:

“That was very long ago, (I yet remember that),
that I was hewn in the end of the forest,
moved from my root. Strong evil men took me away from there,
where they made themselves a spectacle, commanded me to lift up their outlaws.
They bore me there on the shoulders of men, until they set me on the hill,
enough evil men fastened me there. I then saw the Lord of mankind
to hurry with great zeal, he who intended to ascend upon me.
There I dared not against the word of the Lord
to bend or to break, when I saw to tremble
the corners of the earth. I might all
the evil men have felled, yet I stood fast.

“He stripped himself then [,] the young prince (that was God almighty),
strong and resolute; he mounted on the high gallows,
brave in the sight of many, when he meant to redeem mankind.
I trembled then [as] the warrior embraced me; I dared not yet to bend to earth,
fall to the corners of the earth. But I [was] obliged to stand fast.
I was raised up the Rood. I lifted up the powerful King,
Lord of heaven; I dared not bow down.
They drove through me with dark nails; on me are the wounds visible,
open malicious wounds. I dared not injure any of them.
They mocked us both together. I was all moistened with blood,
[it] poured out of the side of the man, when he had sent his ghost on.

“I had endured on the hill much
of cruel fate. I saw the God of the hosts
violently stretch out. With darkness had
the heavens covered the Wielder’s corpse,
the bright radiance; shade went forth
dark under the heavens. All creation wept,
lamented the fall of the King. Christ was on the cross.
Nevertheless the eager then came from afar
to that noble one. I beheld all that.
I was sorely troubled with sorrows, yet I bent to the hands of the men,
humble in great strength. They then named almighty God,
removed him from the oppressive punishment. The warriors left me
to stand drenched in moisture; I was all wounded badly with darts.
Then they laid down the limb-weary one, they stood at the head of the body;
they then beheld the Lord of heaven, and he rested a while,
tired after the great conflict. They began then to make him a tomb [,]
men in sight of the slayer; they carved that from bright stone,
set him therein the Wielder of victory. They began then to sing him a dirge,
wretched in the evening; then they desired to depart afterwards
tired from the glorious lord; they rested there as a small host.

“Yet we there weeping a good while
stood in the position, after the cry went up
of the warriors; the corpse cooled,
fair house of the spirit. Then to us the man began to fall
all to the earth; that was dreadful fate!
They buried us as one in the deep pit. Yet to me then the thanes of the Lord,
friends heard of ………
adorned me in gold and silver.

“Now you are able to hear, oh my hero the dear one,
that I have endured the work of evil men,
of pains of sorrows. The time is now come
that they honored me far and wide,
men across the earth and all this great creation,
they prayed to this standard. On me the Son of God
suffered a while. Therefore glorious I now
tower under the heavens, and I may heal
every one of those who is in awe of me.
Long ago I was become the hardest of tortures,
most hateful to people, before I for him a way of life
prepared right, to voice-bearers.
Indeed, the Lord of splendor honored me then
over the wood on the hill, Warden of the kingdom of heaven,
just as he also his mother, Mary herself,
almighty God for the sake of all men
honored over all womankind.

“Now I bid you, my hero the dear one,
that you should say this vision to men,
reveal in words that it is the tree of the world,
he on whom almighty God sorrowed
for the many sins of mankind
and Adam’s old actions.
He tasted death then; yet afterwards the Lord arose
with his great might as an aid to men.
He then ascended into heaven. Hither afterwards comes
in this middle earth to seek mankind
on doomsday the Lord himself,
almighty God, and with his angels,
he who then desires to judge, he has the power of doom,
he to each of the ones as to him earlier here
in this fleeting life deserves.
Then are none able to be unafraid
of the word that the Wielder speaks.
He will ask of the multitude then where the man should be,
he who desires [,] for the name of the Lord [,] of death
painful to taste, as he who died on the tree before.
But they will then be afraid, and think little
what they should begin to say to Christ.
Then need not any be very afraid
who before themselves bear in their breasts the best of beacons.
But through the rood must seek the kingdom
from the earthly way every soul,
they who with the Wielder intend to dwell.”

A picture of the manuscript, sourced here, with license.

Then I prayed to the tree with glad spirit,
with great zeal, there I alone was
small in the host. The spirit was
urged in going forth; in all many endured
times of longing. It is to me now a joy of life
that I should be able to seek the wood of victory
alone more often than all men
to honor [it] well. To me it is the desire for the
great in spirit, and my allegiance is
directed to that rood. I have not much of riches
of friends on the earth. But they hence forth
departed from the delights of the world, they sought the King of the world;
they live now in the heavens with the High Father,
they live in the world. And I hope for me
in each of the days when [it is] me the rood of the Lord,
which I before beheld here on earth,
should fetch in this fleeting life
and should bring me then where is great bliss,
joy in the heavens, where the people of the Lord is
seated at feast, where is everlasting bliss;
and it then should place me where I will afterwards be able
to live in the world, well with the holy
to partake of joys. The Lord should be a friend to me,
he who here on earth suffered before
on that gallows-tree for the sins of man.
He redeemed us and gave us life,
a heavenly home. Joy was renewed
with glory and with bliss for they who endured burning.
The Son was triumphant in that journey,
mighty and successful, when he came with many,
a host of spirits, into the kingdom of God,
the Lord almighty, with angels to bliss
and all the holy ones in the heavens who had before
dwelt in the world, when the Wielder came for them,
almighty God, where his homeland was.

Perhaps you can adorn me with some gold and silver, or seek me for your scribe-work below!

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