The Dream of the Rood

translated by David Swensen (from the unattributed Anglo Saxon)


Hwæt! Ic swefna cyst secgan wylle,
hwæt me gemætte to midre nihte,
syðþan reordberend reste wunedon!
þuhte me þæt ic gesawe syllicre treow

on lyft lædan, leohte bewunden,

beama beorhtost. Eall þæt beacen wæs

begoten mid golde. Gimmas stodon
fægere æt foldan sceatum, swylce þær fife wæron
uppe on þam eaxlegespanne. Beheoldon þær engel dryhtnes ealle,

fægere þurh forðgesceaft. Ne wæs ðær huru fracodes gealga,
ac hine þær beheoldon halige gastas,
men ofer moldan, ond eall þeos mære gesceaft.

Syllic wæs se sigebeam,ond ic synnum fah,
forwunded mid wommum. Geseah ic wuldres treow,

wædum geweorðode, wynnum scinan,
gegyred mid golde; gimmas hæfdon
bewrigene weorðlice wealdendes treow.
Hwæðre ic þurh þæt gold ongytan meahte
earmra ærgewin,þæt hit ærest ongan

 

swætan on þa swiðran healfe.Eall ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed,
forht ic wæs for þære fægran gesyhðe.Geseah ic þæt fuse beacen
wendan wædum ond bleom; hwilum hit wæs mid wætan bestemed,
beswyled mid swates gange, hwilum mid since gegyrwed.
Hwæðre ic þær licgende lange hwile

beheold hreowcearig hælendes treow,

oððæt ic gehyrde þæt hit hleoðrode.
Ongan þa word sprecan wudu selesta:
"þæt wæs geara iu,(ic þæt gyta geman),
þæt ic wæs aheawen holtes on ende,

astyred of stefne minum.Genaman me ðær strange feondas,
geworhton him þær to wæfersyne, heton me heora wergas hebban.

Bæron me ðær beornas on eaxlum,ðæt hie me on beorg asetton,
gefæstnodon me þær feondas genoge. Geseah ic þa frean mancynnes
efstan elne mycle þæt he me wolde on gestigan.

þær ic þa ne dorste ofer dryhtnes word
bugan oððe berstan, þa ic bifian geseah
eorðan sceatas. Ealle ic mihte

feondas gefyllan, hwæðre ic fæste stod.
Ongyrede hine þa geong hæleð,(þæt wæs god ælmihtig),

strang ond stiðmod. Gestah he on gealgan heanne,
modig on manigra gesyhðe, þa he wolde mancyn lysan.
Bifode ic þa me se beorn ymbclypte. Ne dorste ic hwæðre bugan to eorðan,
feallan to foldan sceatum, ac ic sceolde fæste standan.

Rod wæs ic aræred  Ahof ic ricne cyning,

heofona hlaford, hyldan me ne dorste.
þurhdrifan hi me mid deorcan næglum. On me syndon þa dolg gesiene,
opene inwidhlemmas. Ne dorste ic hira nænigum sceððan.
Bysmeredon hie unc butu ætgædere

 Eall ic wæs mid blode bestemed, begoten of þæs guman sidan,        

siððan he hæfde his gast onsended.

Feala ic on þam beorge gebiden hæbbe
wraðra wyrda. Geseah ic weruda god
þearle þenian. þystro hæfdon
bewrigen mid wolcnum wealdendes hræw,
scirne sciman, sceadu forðeode,

 

wann under wolcnum.Weop eal gesceaft,
cwiðdon cyninges fyll.Crist wæs on rode.
Hwæðere þær fuse feorran cwoman
to þam æðelinge. Ic þæt eall beheold.
Sare ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed  hnag ic

hwæðre þam secgum to handa, eaðmod elne mycle.

 

Genamon hie þær ælmihtigne god, ahofon hine of

ðam hefian wite.Forleton me þa hilderincas
standan steame bedrifenne; eall ic wæs mid strælum forwundod.
Aledon hie ðær limwerigne,gestodon him æt his lices heafdum,
beheoldon hie ðær heofenes dryhten, ond he hine ðær hwile reste,

 

meðe æfter ðam miclan gewinne. Ongunnon him þa moldern wyrcan
beornas on banan gesyhðe;curfon hie ðæt of beorhtan stane,
gesetton hie ðæron sigora wealdend. Ongunnon him þa sorhleoð galan
earme on þa æfentide, þa hie woldon eft siðian,
meðe fram þam mæran þeodne. Reste he ðær mæte weorode.

Hwæðere we ðær greotende gode hwile

stodon on staðole, syððan stefn up gewat
hilderinca. Hræw colode,
fæger feorgbold þa us man fyllan ongan
ealle to eorðan. þæt wæs egeslic wyrd!

Bedealf us man on deopan seaþe. Hwæðre me þær dryhtnes þegnas,
freondas gefrunon,  ond gyredon me golde ond seolfre.

Nu ðu miht gehyran, hæleð min se leofa,
þæt ic bealuwara weorc gebiden hæbbe,

sarra sorga. Is nu sæl cumen
þæt me weorðiað wide ond side
menn ofer moldan, ond eall þeos mære gesceaft,
gebiddaþ him to þyssum beacne. On me bearn godes

þrowode hwile. Forþan ic þrymfæst nu

hlifige under heofenum, ond ic hælan mæg
æghwylcne anra, þara þe him bið egesa to me.
Iu ic wæs geworden wita heardost,
leodum laðost, ærþan ic him lifes weg
rihtne gerymde, reordberendum.

 

Hwæt, me þa geweorðode wuldres ealdor
ofer holmwudu, heofonrices weard!
Swylce swa he his modor eac, Marian sylfe,
ælmihtig god for ealle menn
geweorðode ofer eall wifa cynn.

Nu ic þe hate, hæleð min se leofa,
þæt ðu þas gesyhðe ecge mannum,
onwreoh wordum þæt hit is wuldres beam,
se ðe ælmihtig god on þrowode
for mancynnes manegum synnum

ond Adomes ealdgewyrhtum.

Deað he þær byrigde, hwæðere eft dryhten aras
mid his miclan mihte mannum to helpe.
He ða on heofenas astag. Hider eft fundaþ
on þysne middangeard mancynn secan

on domdæge dryhten sylfa,
ælmihtig god, ond his englas mid,

þæt he þonne wile deman, se ah domes geweald,
anra gehwylcum swa he him ærur her
on þyssum lænum life geearnaþ.

Ne mæg þær ænig unforht wesan
for þam worde þe se wealdend cwyð.
Frineð he for þære mænige hwær se man sie,

se ðe for dryhtnes naman deaðes wolde
biteres onbyrigan, swa he ær on ðam beame dyde.

Ac hie þonne forhtiað, ond fea þencaþ
hwæt hie to Criste cweðan onginnen.
Ne þearf ðær þonne ænig anforht wesan
þe him ær in breostum bereð beacna selest,

ac ðurh ða rode sceal rice gesecan

of eorðwege æghwylc sawl,
seo þe mid wealdende wunian þenceð."
Gebæd ic me þa to þan beame bliðe mode,
elne mycle, þær ic ana wæs
mæte werede.Wæs modsefa

 

afysed on forðwege, feala ealra gebad
langunghwila.Is me nu lifes hyht
þæt ic þone sigebeam secan mote
ana oftor þonne ealle men,
well weorþian. Me is willa to ðam

mycel on mode, ond min mundbyrd is

geriht to þære rode.Nah ic ricra feala
freonda on foldan, ac hie forð heonon
gewiton of worulde dreamum, sohton him wuldres cyning,
lifiaþ nu on heofenum  mid heahfædere,

wuniaþ on wuldre, ond ic wene me
daga gehwylce hwænne me dryhtnes rod,

þe ic her on eorðan ær sceawode,
on þysson lænan life gefetige
ond me þonne gebringe þær is blis mycel,

dream on heofonum, þær is dryhtnes folc
geseted to symle, þær is singal blis,
ond me þonne asette þær ic syþþan mot
wunian on wuldre, well mid þam halgum
dreames brucan. Si me dryhten freond,

se ðe her on eorþan ær þrowode
on þam gealgtreowe for guman synnum.
He us onlysde ond us lif forgeaf,
heofonlicne ham. Hiht wæs geniwad

mid bledum ond mid blisse þam þe þær bryne þolodan.

Se sunu wæs sigorfæst on þam siðfate,
mihtig ond spedig, þa he mid manigeo com,
gasta weorode, on godes rice,
anwealda ælmihtig, englum to blisse
ond eallum ðam halgum þam þe on heofonum ær

 

wunedon on wuldre, þa heora wealdend cwom,
ælmihtig god, þær his eðel wæs.



Behold! How often the best of visions come

Drenched and dreamt in darkness long after

Folk to the dwellings of their dreams have gone!

It seemed to me that I beheld a marvelous tree

Being raised into the air, light arched round its

Bark in bright beams, with symbols in all their

 

Enigmatic prowess, firm beside the gold and

Jewels encrusted on that Cross. Above the crossbeam

Floated a host of angels, all fair by virtue of creation

None those rogue felons of the gallows; yet

The cross beheld and possessed that holy spirit

Of man upon earth and all his glorious creation.

 

The tree of victory was wondrous, and I, stained

With sin, wounded by my own transgression.

Yet, as I saw the glory tree, with shimmering garments

Of gold and gem joyfully adorning it, I could perceive

The wretchedness of other men, the blood which dripped

and blemished its side. I was fearful in the face of such

 

Transformation,  for the tree at times showed gold

and shimmered, and then was soaked in the flow

of its of its own black blood. Nevertheless, lying

quietly, I gazed in the heat of vision upon the Savior’s

cross, until I heard it speak. The cross then began to utter

words whose excellence I can only repeat:

 

It was long ago (but I still remember), way down

At the forests edge I was hacked from my own

Precious roots, moved from my blessed trunk

By powerful enemies, who berated me as a spectacle

Then commanded me to bear on my back the weight

Of their criminal. Men carried me on their shoulders

 

Then, until laying me down on a hill. Vast enemies

Held me there, until I saw the Lord. He was hastening

With great zeal, to climb upon me! I did not dare rise

Against the Lord’s command, by bending or breaking

When I felt the quaking of the earth’s surface. I could

Have fallen every enemy then and there, but I stood

My ground. He then stripped himself, the young hero

 

Who was almighty God, strong and resolute as he

Mounted my lofty beams, bravery never wavering

Under the scrutiny of all, since it was mankind he would redeem.

I trembled when the warrior clasped me, yet dared

Not bend down to the soil, or collapse in the dust spun

Earth. The cross was raised up as I heaved the powerful

 

King, Lord of the heavens, and bend I didn’t dare.

They pierced me with dark nails, leaving wounds which are

Still visible, open in deep black gashes, Yet still I dared

Not harm any of those men. As they mocked both of us

I was drenched in the blood from the side of the lord

Which came after his spirit was sent forth.

 

On that hill I experienced many cruel events. I saw

The God of hosts severely stretched, the clouds of

Darkness covered the ruler’s corpse , a bright radiance

And a shadow came forth and ducked under the sky

All of creation wept-lamenting the death of the king:

Christ was on the cross.

 

Yet, others came hastening from abroad to the prince.

I was sorely oppressed with sorrows and distress,

Yet I bowed to these men’s hands; humble, but with

Strength and fervor. They took hold of almighty God

And rose him out of his heavy wooden torture. Yet,

They left me as a standing as a battle warrior, covered

 

In the thick red moisture of blood, still with my wounds.

They laid down the weary limbed man, stood at his head,

And stared upwards awestruck at the rested lord of heaven,

Exhausted after his great struggle. They then began to carve

Him a tomb, cutting it out of shining stone to place him within;

That Lord of victories. As they began their song of lament

 

That dark and wretched evening, they began to depart; worn

From the sufferings of the Prince. He remained there with

Little company as we wept and heard the sounds of the song

Of a warrior’s lament departing with the wind. Then the corpse

Grew cold, that fair dwelling place of the spirit. One by one

We were cut down and they tossed us into the ground.

 

O! dreadful fate, we were buried deep into a dank pit.

But friends and the Lord’s servants found me

And adorned me with gold and silver.

Now, hear me, my dear man-

Evil men have worked to inflict pain on me,

I have endured suffering and grievous anxiety.

 

Now the time has come for people far and wide on

All corners of the earth honor me:

Men through all the glorious created earth

Bend down to their knees to honor me and worship

This sign. It was on me that God’s son suffered, and it

Is because of his suffering that I now tower into the heavens

 

And may save every one of those who are in awe.

Once, I was dealt the cruelest of punishments-I was

a symbol of hate, until I opened the way for mankind.

O, Lo the honorable and glorious prince

Held above the forests of trees, towards the lords Kingdom,

Just as he had honored his mother before him,

As he would honor Mary, for the sake of all women.

 

Now, my dear friend, I command you to tell

This vision to all mankind, to reveal that the word

Of this tree is true, and that is was on this tree

That the almighty God suffered, for the many sins

Of man, and the former actions of Adam.

He had tasted death, but again the Lord arose

With great fervor and might to help all men.

He then ascended to the heavens, yet will return

To earth again as mankind seeks him on

The day of doom. The Lord himself, almighty God,

And his angels with him hold the power of judgment,

 

And they will judge the people as themselves

On their gained merit in this transitory life.

Not a single soul shall be unafraid in the face

Of that great Ruler’s uttered word.

As he asks in the presence of the multitudes:

‘Where is that man who would be willing to taste

 

The bitter dram of death as he once did on that

Shimmering, wounded cross?’ And they will be

Afraid, and know little of how to begin to speak

To Christ. But there will be no need then for anyone

Who already carries on his breast the best sign;

Because through that very cross every soul which

 

Intends to dwell with his ruler shall be carried from

The soiled paths of the earth, upwards into the kingdom”

 

 

Then, with great zeal I prayed in a tender and joyful spirit

To that tree, where I was alone with little company.

There my mind urged me forward on a journey outward;

I know many have endured this tune of longing.

As for me, I pray that I will return to that victorious tree,

Seek it; alone and more often then all men,

 

To honor it in its glory. To those ends the desire

grows great in my heart, and I put my hope of protection

in the hands of the cross.  I do not have many powerful

friends on earth; yet they have all departed from the world

seeking joy for themselves in the radiance of the Lord,

and now they live in heaven with God the Father,

 

dwelling in his deep light—and for myself, I hope

each day for the hour when the Lord’s cross

which I beheld with my very eyes, here, on earth,

will bring me out of this transitory life,

to a place where bliss abounds,

that joy we call heaven, where all the Lord’s folk

 

sit at the everlasting banquet,

and I may then have a place to dwell

in the utmost glory with all the saints,

and enjoy that final happiness.

May the lord be a friend to me,

He who formerly suffered on the

 

Gallows tree for the sins of men.

He who redeems, gives life, and gives

That heavenly home. Hope was renewed

With glory and with bliss, where once

The Lord’s people had suffered burning.

 

The Son was triumphant on his journey,

Mighty and enduring, when he came with the multitude

To lift souls into heaven, Sovereign and almighty,

To the glory of all the angels and saints who have

 

Dwelled in heavens, waiting for their Ruler, the

almighty God, to return to his home.  

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