Good Friday Reflection: The Dream of the Rood

Posted: April 22, 2011 in Poetry

Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=587

Below is an excerpt from a wonderful Christian poem, translated from Old English.  An example of a genre known as ‘dream poetry’, the anonymous author employs evocative language to translate a deeply personal experience into a universal message which reflects the transformative power of Good Friday.

Listen! The choicest of visions I wish to tell,
which came as a dream in middle-night,
after voice-bearers lay at rest.
It seemed that I saw a most wondrous tree
born aloft, wound round by light,
brightest of beams. All was that beacon
sprinkled with gold. Gems stood
fair at earth’s corners; there likewise five
shone on the shoulder-span. All there beheld the Angel of God,
fair through predestiny. Indeed, that was no wicked one’s gallows,
but holy souls beheld it there,
men over earth, and all this great creation.

And I for myself expect
each of my days the time when the Lord’s rood,
which I here on earth formerly saw,
from this loaned life will fetch me away
and bring me then where is much bliss,
joy in the heavens, where the Lord’s folk
is seated at feast, where is bliss everlasting;
and set me then where I after may
dwell in glory, well with those saints
delights to enjoy. May he be friend to me
who here on earth earlier died
on that gallows-tree for mankind’s sins.
He loosed us and life gave,
a heavenly home. Hope was renewed
with glory and gladness to those who there burning endured.
That Son was victory-fast in that great venture,
with might and good-speed, when he with many,
vast host of souls, came to God’s kingdom,
One-Wielder Almighty: bliss to the angels
and all the saints–those who in heaven
dwelt long in glory–when their Wielder came,
Almighty God, where his homeland was.

Translation copyright © 1982, Jonathan A. Glenn.  The full text of the poem is available at: http://faculty.uca.edu/jona/texts/rood.htm

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