THE DREAM OF THE ROOD
Listen while I tell about the best of dreams
Which came to me the middle of one night
While people were sleeping in their beds.
It was as though I saw a wondrous tree
Towering in the sky suffused with light, 5
Brightest of beams; and all that beacon was
Covered with gold. The corners of the earth
Gleamed with fair jewels; likewise, there were five
Upon the cross-beam. Many bands of angels,
Fair throughout all eternity, looked on. 10
No felon's gallows that, but holy spirits,
Human beings, and all this marvelous creation,
Gazed on it.
Glorious was that tree of victory
And I with sins was stained, wounded with guilt.
I saw the tree of glory brightly shine 15
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 20
Completely oppressed with sorrows, and afraid
At the fair sight. I saw that lively beacon
Changing its clothes and hues; sometimes it was
Bedewed with blood, drenched with flowing gore,
At other times it was bedecked with treasure. 25
So I lay watching there the savior'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-- 30
That I was cut down at the copse's end, moved
From my roots. 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; 35
A host of enemies there fastened me.
And then I saw the lord of all mankind
Hasten with eagerness that he might mount
Upon me. I dared not against God's word
Bend down or break, when I saw tremble all 40
The corners of the earth. Although I might
Have struck down all the foes, yet stood I fast.
"Then the young hero (who was God almighty)
Got ready, resolute and strong in heart.
He climbed onto the lofty gallows-tree, 45
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. 50
"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 dared I 55
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. 60
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, 64
Bewailed the king's death; Christ was on the cross.
"And yet I saw men coming from a far,
Hastening to the prince. I watched it all.
With sorrows I was grievously oppressed,
Yet with eagerness I bent to those men's hands,
Humbly. They took up there almighty God, 70
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 75
The lord of heaven, and he rested there
A while, tired after the great agony.
"The men then made a sepulchre for him in the sight
Of his murderer. They carved it of bright stone,
And set therein the lord of victories. 80
Next, wretched in the eventide, they sang
A dirge for him; and when they went away, weary,
From that great prince, he rested there companionless.
"Yet we remained there weeping in our places
A good long time after the warriors' voices 85
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.
And servants of the Lord learned where I was, 90
And decorated me with gold and silver.
"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 they honor me, 95
Human beings and all this marvelous creation,
And to this beacon offer 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. 100
Once I became the cruelest of tortures,
Most hateful to all nations, till the time
I opened the right way of life for people.
So then the prince of glory honored me,
And heaven's king exalted me above 105
All other trees, just as almighty God
Raised up his mother Mary for all men
Above all other women in the world.
"Now, my dear warrior, I order you
That you reveal this vision to mankind, 110
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 115
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 120
Will give his verdict upon everyone,
What in this transitory life he shall have earned.
Nor then may anyone be without fear
About the words the lord shall say to him.
Before all he shall ask where that man is 125
Who for God's name would suffer bitter death
As formerly he did upon the cross.
Then will they be afraid, and few will know
What they may say to Christ. But there need none
Be fearful if he bears upon his breast 130
The best of signs. Through the cross each soul
May journey to the heavens from this earth,
Who with the ruler thinks to go and dwell."
I prayed then to the cross with joyous heart
And eagerness, where I was all alone, 135
Companionless; my spirit was inspired
With keenness for departure; and I spent
Much time in longing. Now my hope in life
Is that I may approach the tree of triumph
Alone more often than all other men, 140
Honor it well; my wish for that is great
Within my heart, and my hope for support
Is turned toward 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 146
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 150
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, 155
He who once suffered on the gallows tree
On earth here for man's sins. Us he redeemed
And granted us life, a heavenly home.
Hope was renewed with glory and with bliss
For those who suffered burning fires in hell. 160
The son was mighty on that expedition,
Successful and victorious, when he,
The one almighty ruler, brought with him
A multitude of spirits to God's kingdom,
To bliss among the angels and the souls 165
Of all who dwelt already in the heavens.
In glory: when almighty God, the ruler,
Came into his own homeland.
Translation by Richard Hamer (copyright 1970)
(revised by Míceál F. Vaughan, 1983/1996)