Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Dream of The Rood

The Dream of The Rood” is an Anglo-Saxon poem which falls under the ‘religious poetry’ of the period. This poem was preserved in the “Vercelli Book” found in northern Italy in the 10th century, but may be much older. The author of this poem is unknown; however, researchers in the field of literature have adopted this work to be either of the two great Anglo-Saxon Christian poets: Caedmon or Cynewulf.

The title of the poem is a suited example of the usage of ‘kenning’ (meaning, a conventional poetic phrase for or in addition to the usual name of a person or thing, especially in the Anglo-Saxon verse, as “a wave traveler” for “a boat”) – “The Rood” for “The Cross” (the wood against which Jesus Christ was crucified). The entire poem is about 1200 words, and was written in an alliterative style of Old English. The poem begins and ends with the story told by the dreamer; the central section is from the point-of-view of the Cross itself.

“The Dream of The Rood” portrays a powerful paradox. The Cross is a symbol both of shame and of glory. It is a place of defeat and victory. The Cross submits to God's will – not bending or breaking, although it could have fallen and crushed the crucifiers – and is thus used to crucify Christ. The Rood suffers along with Jesus, feeling the nails pierce its cross-beam, being stained with blood, even feeling the mocking that was flung at Christ. The Cross has endured the work of the evildoers and suffered sore grief. On this triumphant piece of tree, the God’s Son (Jesus Christ) suffered for a while; therefore the Rood stands up gloriously under heaven, and is ready to save every one of those who hold the Rood in awe. This wood is honored more than any other wood in the forest, for it beheld the Father of Glory, the Guardian of Heaven.

The Rood tells its vision to men, revealing in words that it was the tree of glory on which almighty God suffered for mankind’s many sins. The God’s Son tasted death there; nonetheless, after that the Lord arose in his great might to be of help to men. He ascended into heaven then, but He shall return to earth again on Doomsday (the Last Day or the Final Judgment Day). The God shall come with his angels, and He who is judge over all shall give judgment to each of them according to what he has earned here in this transitory life. 

The dreamer seeks for immense faith in this majestic Rood which beheld God Himself; in return, the Rood stands to protect the dreamer, by extension to protect those who bow before Lord and embrace Him with all love and respect. The dreamer wants the Lord to befriend him, the same Lord who once on earth suffered on the crossbeams for the sins of man; and this Lord freed the mankind by forgiving them and joy was restored. The Son was triumphant, mighty in battle, when He returned to God’s kingdom – the almighty God, came into his own realm. 

The poem brings the connections between the dreamer, the Cross and the Christ himself. As my personal note, I enjoyed reading and analyzing this poem for it very effectively portrays the existence of life within each and every object on earth. The Rood, being the base where Jesus was crucified against, speaks of how it felt when Lord himself was bound to the crossbeams of this wood. As a student of literature or as a sensitive person, irrespective of I being a believer or a non-believer of God - the poem has lived up to its heights to kindle the thoughts and emotions in me.


venkeyraj said...

The poem has been the subject of literary and historical study for generations and has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Profound and moving of itself, The Dream of the Rood also provides a valuable window into early Christian England.
The dream vision uses strong, virile images of Christ in order to reach members of the Anglo-Saxon warrior culture, who valued strength above humility. This may have been a deliberate strategy to convert pagans to Christianity. It also reflects how the image of Jesus was adapted to suit different cultures.

Suhasini Srihari said...

Thank you for the informative comment Venkey! :)

Vishwanthar said...

I am not a lover of poems. However, I truly appreciate your comments, for the thoughts are expressed exquisitely. Good job. Keep it going.

Suhasini Srihari said...

Thank you Sir! :)

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